Pecking at Crossroads | VailDaily.com
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Pecking at Crossroads

Kaye Ferry

I’m not a Stephen King fan, but he wrote a book called “It.” When I looked it up on the Internet, the recap said it was about a “demonic creature in a small town.” If you were to listen to the Vail Town Council, you’d be led to believe that definition could also apply to the redevelopment of Crossroads.Here’s how we get back to my last column’s reference to my week of miracles and agreeing with Greg Moffet. It’s no secret that Greg and I seldom see eye to eye. But I have absolutely no problem acknowledging when I think someone’s right. In this case he was not only right, he was the only one on the Town Council who was right. And he was not just right, he was brilliant. You read it here. Brilliant.Where to start? I guess the staff would be a good place. He took them to task for not presenting all of the facts and at one point stated that we should not have to learn some of the details from the applicant. But I’ll go further. After years of watching the staff and their approach to presenting applications to the various town boards, rarely have I seen unbiased positions. The staff should follow the old Jack Webb philosophy, for those who can remember, “just the facts, ma’am.” Instead, they become advocates for one side or the other rather than simply the conduits of information. As such, they skew the process to the infuriation of the community and those boards for which they are asked to provide the fact gathering.One of the greatest points of debate, which I have referred to before, is this area of “public benefits.” Since no definition is provided in the town codes, it is left to personal interpretation – always risky business. So as regards to Crossroads, the question became does the ice rink (I’ll come back to that), bowling alleys, theaters, arcades, etc., meet the definition of public benefit even though none exists?The debate ensued. In the filled chamber, without a doubt the majority said yes. Yet behind the table, the answer mostly was no. And Mr. Moffet shone in his interpretation. He said that this project took a “quantum leap” in providing public benefits over anything he had seen in all his years on PEC and the Town Council.He went on to provide his definition. A public benefit is anything that enhances the experience of living here, creates a sense of community, and causes residents and guests to want to be here. Amen. I almost cheered.He went on to chastise some of his fellow council members for thinking that they could keep pushing at this project and not have consequences. He made it clear that with regard to this project, nothing can happen without significant residential development. He then provided the most salient point of all. In a “sales tax-driven economy,” acknowledging that he had proposed moving away from it with no success, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. Without some concessions, certain things in this project will go away. Pure and simple.As I said in a previous column, in order to get something, you have to be willing to give in return. Yet in case after case, the mentality in the town is to take as much as possible from every developer who walks in the door as if they’re the enemy instead of the partners we need.Which brings me to the next step. The developer has decided to return to the PEC. The staff has led them to believe that would be the ultimate move anyway, so they’re trying for March 14. They also received some unofficial direction, partly ascertained from the comments at the last Town Council meeting. The project is being moved back from the town right of ways which, by the way, were mostly underground. The only place that they will encroach is on the ground level access to loading and delivery.And the result? The loss of one below-grade floor. Thus, no bowling alley (saving Mr. Knobel $1 million per lane or $10 million for the proposed 10 lanes, not including the parking cost); three theaters instead of four; approximately 100 fewer parking spaces. The arcade area will no longer be a free-standing 10,000-square-foot component but will be moved to the ground level and become part of one of the original bar-restaurant spaces.If that weren’t enough, there’s a move afoot to transform the ice skating rink into a park, an idea already supported by a council member. The idea is that it will take away the “urban” feeling of the development and provide an area for picnics.Well that about tops it off, as far as I’m concerned. It is an urban district; it’s not the park district. It’s in the heart of the commercial core. The area should be designed to draw activity. How many more places for picnics do we need? And what, for God’s sake, does anyone think this pile of grass will look like in the winter?If somebody over at Town Hall doesn’t start dealing with the economic reality of this project, perhaps another of Mr. Moffet’s predictions will come true. Did you know the Crossroads space is zoned for a dog kennel? Maybe if the letter of all the zoning is followed, we can listen to yapping dogs instead. Or maybe Peter will take his ball and just go home. 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, vaildaily.com-columnists or search:ferry. Kaye Ferry, a longtime observer of Vail government, writes a weekly column for the Daily.Vail, Colorado


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