Letter: How Vail can pay Timber Ridge debt
Vail CO, Colorado
The town of Vail Town Council has effectively established a new principle ” the town of Vail does not sell its land. This quasi-principle was setup on March 18 when the council voted (6-1) to break off negotiations with a prospective Timber Ridge developer. This organization would have reconstructed and expanded Timber Ridge ” but requiring the land be sold to them and offering limited town control over rental rates, etc. Public pressure seemed to have played a role in the “don’t sell our land” issue.
On balance, this is the good news. The bad news is the town has approximately $20 million of short-term debt that was used to buy Timber Ridge back in 2003. But this debt could be partly paid off with some creative thinking. This scenario would tap into two sources of funding with uses that promise to be hotly debated unless a tie-breaker comes along. Paying off Timber Ridge debt could just be that tie-breaker.
Who could argue against adequate employee housing ultimately affecting everything ” from bringing people here in the first place to subsequently meeting or exceeding their expectations?
The potential sources of funds are:
First, the conference center fund of approximately $10 million. Earlier this year the Town Council correctly pushed off bringing this to the voters ’til 2009 or later since an agreement of need was not in place. Enter the need to pay off Timber Ridge debt. Now the council could change its position and put the issue to the voters in fall of 2008 ” offering the option to channel the funds towards retiring Timber Ridge debt.
Second, there is the $1.5 million windfall the town will be collecting this year over last year from property taxes. How this will be used or justified will be hard to explain to the voters. Enter the need to pay off Timber Ridge debt. Its probably a slam-dunk to take $1 million of this and apply it to the Timber Ridge debt.
It’s time for common sense decision-making. For Timber Ridge redevelopment, the project will now start from the beginning ” surely including a land-lease-only stipulation ” before talking to developers.
For the land ownership issue, land lease contracts at Middle Creek and The Commons could be models. For a starting-over perspective, this happened to the Donovan Pavilion project with good results. For Timber Ridge debt, let’s think outside the box, perhaps considering the above proposals.
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VAIL — The lift operator in the maze at Vail Village’s Gondola One tilts his head back and hollers: “Masks up please!”