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Lionshead parking rallies business community

Kaye Ferry

This week we’ll continue with the proposed Lionshead parking structure redevelopment.The business community, primarily led by Lionshead, rallied the troops and showed up in an unusual display of force at the Aug. 15 Vail town council meeting.What moved them to take this action was the proposal before the town to demolish the Lionshead parking structure in April of 2008. And while they had a variety of personal tangents, the overwhelming and oft-repeated message was loud and clear: The Lionshead parking garage cannot come down until a replacement is erected somewhere on the west end of town. Rarely have I seen such a turnout by a cohesive group on a specific topic, and they are to be commended for joining forces to challenge an issue that stands to threaten their very existence as a business community.You might assume by this that there was an item on Tuesday’ agenda specifically calling for a discussion of this topic. Oddly, there wasn’t. Which is precisely why the group forced the issue. They were very concerned by the speed with which this project has wound its way through an historically cumbersome and notoriously slow moving bureaucratic treadmill. But of even greater concern was the apparent absence of any scheduled time for the public to weigh in on this development before the published “D” Day of Sept. 19. So they decided to take matters into their own hands and state their opposition, even though their opinions had not been solicited. One by one they came to the microphone during “Citizen Participation,” a slot reserved for unscheduled items to be brought to the attention of the town council. And while I don’t typically name names in this space, I think it’s important to do so in this instance, so I will. I’ll list them in the order in which they spoke: Tommy Nyens, Ski and Bike Valet; Nicole Hoffman Ewing, General Store, who had a letter read into the record in her absence; Guiqui Hoffman, Laughing Monkey; Bob Isom, Bart and Yeti’s; Bill Suarez, Billy’s Island Grill; Rich tenBraak, of Manor Vail but speaking as president of the Vail Chamber and Business Association; Tom Ludwig, Montauk; Rick Silverman, citizen; Packy Walker, Lifthouse Condominiums; Matt Carroll, Double Diamond Ski Shop; Jay Lucas, Wheel Base; Chris Manning, Swedish Clog Cabin; Craig Arford, Vail Ski and Bike Tech. Also in attendance to show support from the VCBA were Lourdes Ferzacca, vice president and myself as well as some other Lionshead and Vail Village business owners who chose not to speak.The message was loud and clear that the parking structure should not come down until another structure is up somewhere. We cannot survive any more. We need a rest. Time out. Let us get back on our feet before you knock us down again. It’s not about the project, it’s about the timing. Wait a few years. Give us a break or we won’t survive. Many said if they lose their business, they are just too old to start over. And it’s not just Lionshead that will suffer. All of Vail will suffer if we lose 1,150 spaces in that structure, plus an additional 189 while Crossroads is being constructed. Leading up to last Tuesday, several council members had been canvassing the community with what my niece would call “lame” ideas. One said they’d bus everyone from Ford Park to Lionshead. He also had the idea of not having Lionshead businesses pay sales tax. What good would that do? Does anyone think that not collecting 4 percent would really drive business to Lionshead? Besides, what’s 4 percent of nothing? And it’s illegal to collect it and not remit it. Another council member guaranteed free gondola rides next summer All of this in an attempt to convince Lionshead businesses they can survive yet another “Beirut” summer and still be in business. No. This answer is very simple. The structure cannot come down until another one goes up somewhere. But if the madness of this idea goes forward, there are remedies, as disruptive as they may be. So far I’ve heard of several possible causes for a referendum. For some, they’ll fight it if there’s transfer of the title to the land; for others if public benefits do not meet or exceed the appraisal value; and still others have suggested they’ll push for a public vote regardless of the details. And I’ve also heard the question asked: “How do we go about a recall?”And this isn’t just about the parking structure. It’s about open government.. And not only in Vail – just look at Avon and Eagle County. It’s about accountability from public officials, both elected and hired. It’s about the public process. It’s about our rights as citizens to have our say on the use of public lands. They don’t belong to the staff. Or the electeds. They’re ours. And anybody that doesn’t get that concept doesn’t belong here. Or in office. Or employed by us.So it’s a long way from over. This thing has to slow down and wait its turn. And it’s turn is definitely not now.On a side note, one of the speakers at last week’s meeting raised a very good question: Where are all of the opponents of development that had the community whipped into a frenzy just a month ago over Crossroads? Are they once again traveling or watching TV while this debate is heating up? Because anyone that had their shorts in a knot over development on private land should be out in droves to hold the town accountable over something being proposed on public land. Do your part: Call them and write them.To contact the Vail town council, call 479-1860, ext. 8 or e-mail towncouncil@vailgov.com.To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or email vailinfo@vailresorts.comFor past columns, vaildaily.com- commentary or search:ferry Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.Vail, Colorado


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