Ferry: Vail’s still throwing money away | VailDaily.com

Ferry: Vail’s still throwing money away

Kaye Ferry
Vail CO, Colorado

I heard a funny line the other day. It was in reference to the new leadership at Vail Resorts. They were called Bob Cat and the Broomfield Boys.

I don’t know why it struck me so funny because they’re not funny and what they do isn’t funny. It’s calculated. And smart. And I used to think they were just a few steps ahead of us. It’s more like a dozen. Maybe more.

It remains to be seen what will actually evolve in these last efforts towards getting an certificate of occupancy on Arrabelle. It needs to open, for all of our sakes. As a community, we need to get back to some semblance of normalcy. The guests are tired of cranes and holes in the ground. And for the Lionshead business owners, it’s about survival.

Here’s what I know. Vail Resorts planned ahead to insure that as long as they hold a lease on Timber Ridge, their housing obligations are temporarily met on Arrabelle. I also know that we should not have let this run up until D-Day. Months ago we should have had this conversation in anticipation of just what would happen when the you know what hit the fan. Because it always does. Then we would have had time to deal without our backs to the wall. We’ll see. But I would never bet on us winning the battle.

As you know, Vail Resorts has offered a letter of credit for $17 million, which is to be held until they deliver the 120 beds they owe on Arrabelle. It’s very questionable whether 120 beds can be built for $17 million (that’s $130,000 per bed).

But a very strange statement was made concerning that. “Pay in lieu was never intended to cover construction costs.” Huh? Roughly 90 of these beds are very real beds that were lost when the Sundance was demolished. They need to be replaced with very real money. The other 30 are a result of the new regulations. But those 90 should clearly be tied to construction costs.

Personally, I think they all should be.

Then the mill levy. The Town of Vail had no interest in returning any money to its citizens. We had a few council members who initially thought it might be OK. But they too folded when advised that legal counsel thought it might violate TABOR. So Vail will keep approximately $1.5 million more than last year as part of their windfall tax increase. Their only concession was to forego an abatement levy of $48,164.

Funny that Aspen, which is also in the state of Colorado last time I checked, decided to reduce their mill levy to give a tax break to their residents. And Pitkin County followed suit, doing the same thing. Incidentally, both Aspen and the Pitkin County had been de-Bruced as Vail is.

So I guess anything’s possible if you want it to be. For more info, go to aspentimes.com and search mill levy.

And while we’re at it, I’ll take a moment to reflect on the Vail Recreation District. They, too, have the opportunity to reduce their mill levy. They anticipate a similar windfall, perhaps in the neighborhood of $800,000.

You might wonder why I have refrained from criticizing them. It’s simple. They have been diligent in assessing their physical needs and identifying the lack of financial resources at their disposal. They have spent the last year trying to assess the choices they have for raising revenues to meet those demands if we, as a community, want to continue to provide quality recreational opportunities to both residents and guests.

They have seriously been weighing going to the taxpayer in May for a mill levy increase. With the influx of these new funds, they have indicated that should not be necessary. If they change their minds, we’ll talk about it. Until then, this is money that will be well spent.

The town did a similar survey of needs. They determined that the use tax would solve their problem. And they convinced the voters to support that. They did. So how much more do they need? I guess this is a classic case of enough is never enough.

And then there’s the never-ending saga known as Seibert Circle. What was once an innocuous little gathering place with a large spruce tree and a few benches, now reminds me of the comparison sailor’s make to their boat. It creates a space in the water where you continually throw money.

That’s Seibert Circle. And when you’re finished throwing dollar bills, you can then drag the project out so that it seems like a life’s work. Because the project is sooooo far behind, work will cease until spring. At this point, all anybody wants is for the thing to be completed. As much as we hated those rocks, most people would gladly take them back. By the way, where are they?

Then I heard another funny line. Government nannyism. I loved that one. It was in reference to the staff’s proposal that art be required as part of the approval process for development of private property.

The concept of art as part of any project has been limited to special development districts where the sky seems the limit in the tug of war between the town and the developer. To start adding it as a requirement for private development, well thankfully, that went down for the time being.

We can only hope it stays down.

Finally, just to re-enforce what I said in my last column, there’s a different tone in the room. This council seems calmer, less antagonistic.

Every council seems to have its own personality, some you like, some you don’t.

So far this one is on a better tack.

Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail towncouncil@vailgov.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail vailinfo@vailresorts.com. For past columns, go to vaildaily.com and click on “Commentary” or search for keyword “ferry.”

Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a biweekly column for the Daily.

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