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On to Lionshead

Kaye Ferry

I was asked after the recent election what I would write about now, as if without Crossroads we would be void of topics. I told them, just wait a minute. There’s always something to argue about in Vail. Of course, I was right, there is. Recently I was asked to keep an open mind. Which I have. But already I can see that this, too, will heat up.I’m talking about the plans for the Lionshead parking structure. There was quite a presentation at last Tuesday’s Town Council meeting. You remember I wrote here that I was told the town was on a “fishing expedition,” even though they already had an “RFD” just coincidentally ready to go and a time table all typed up.Tuesday’s meeting was interesting on several levels. The mayor had to recuse himself because his company is already listed on the organizational chart of one of the two developers (out of an original nine) left in the running. Pretty quick, huh?Then the sales pitch started. Now I don’t know about you, but my opinion is that the town staff should never be cheerleaders for anything. They should be the impartial gatherers of ideas and facts. They should not take ownership of anything prior to a decision being made.But in our town, with our staff, that seems to be a concept that is either too difficult to grasp or maybe that message has never been delivered to them. The staff should do research so that we can make decisions. It is not their job to make decisions for us, whether they do it outright or in the way they present information. That goes for all paid employees in the town of Vail. They work for us, not the other way around.So now that I’ve vented, let’s get back to where we are so far. To begin with, when asked why this process was on the fast track, the answer given was simply this: We need to move now while interest rates are low, building interest high and developers are ready and waiting to take the risk. Putting it bluntly, money was the answer for what the town staff repeatedly called an opportunistic situation for us. So I have just one question. When was money ever the driving force in any of our decisionmaking?In any event, I do not buy this philosophy. Development in the town has always been a good investment. OK. So maybe we’ve had a few downturns over the years, but they’ve been fleeting. With all of the new development happening now, property values will only continue to rise. Particularly for the one remaining large piece of centrally located land that we have. Never forget, when land is at such a premium as it is in the town of Vail, it will never lose value. The one thing I know for sure is we can’t make any more of it. You don’t have to have a Ph. D. to know that.So scare tactics aside, that argument won’t fly. But I tell you, on Tuesday you would have thought that we’d finally hooked a couple of suckers and we’d better not let them get away. Yet, how does the saying go? There’s a sucker born every minute. So don’t worry, they’re not in short supply. But these guys are anything but suckers. They are smart businessmen who know a good deal when they see it. If they walk, some others will also see the opportunity. So to rush into this is really naive. And to think we would buy that argument is just plain underestimating this community.And you know what? I’m pleased to report that at least one of the developers agrees with me. I got a call the other day from Open Hospitality Partners and Hillwood Capital Partnership (as opposed to East West Partners, who are also in the running). He made it perfectly clear that while he sees the opportunity of this as a premier spot for development, in no way has he set a time table or indicated any sense of urgency to anyone at the town. He’s willing to take his time. He agreed that our land will never decrease in value over the long run and there will always be someone willing to take on this project. Slowing down will not cause developers to lose interest. It’s better to know what the community wants. So at least we have one developer who has expressed his desire to get community input and build the facility that we want and need. Or so he says. After I meet with him on the 30th, I’ll have a better sense.So I’ll ask again. What’s the rush? Where’s the public process? Who will benefit from action taken now rather than if we wait till later? These are all questions that should be on the tip of your tongue. What I do know is this: Nothing in the town of Vail is ever coincidental or accidental.And now, back to Lionshead. Did you know in the old days it was spelled with a capital H? How did Don Rogers print it today? I sent in a capital H. When the town did its new “way finding” series of signage, they discover the old spelling. In fact the consultants recommended that we go back to the original spelling because people not “in the know” were pronouncing it “Lion shead.” Actually, a bus driver came in to my office to say just that. He also said it had gotten better since we changed the spelling. I use “we,” meaning everybody but the Vail Daily. So much for Don’s theory of a marketing ploy. Or maybe it’s part of the conspiracy theory.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 “Columnists” or search for keyword “ferry.” Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily. Vail, Colorado


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