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Peter pulls the plug

Remember the goose that laid the golden egg? Well the goose is alive, but the egg is dead. That’s right. And you have your elected officials to thank for it. Peter Knobel pulled the plug. It’s over. I’ll tell you what, Moffet had it right. We should all be “disgusted and ashamed” of the way Crossroads has been handled. At this point, it really shouldn’t matter which side you’re on because we all look like idiots. Please keep in mind that while you might think this doesn’t apply to you, it does. We all have the potential to be their victims.By now you know that our fearless leaders once again turned down one of the most exciting projects ever presented in this community. But that is entirely beside the point. It’s how they did it that matters. What’s even worse, the project is now history.But you need the details. Crossroads is one of three parcels in the town with its particular zoning. Consequently the first question addressed was whether the zoning should be changed to accommodate the new project or if the special development district process would suffice. Keep in mind that all other zoning in the town has been upgraded over the past 40 years, but this one hasn’t.A special development district was the answer. Yet, last Tuesday, Councilman Cleveland could not get off that issue. “It exceeds the current zoning.” Duh. Everybody knew it would going in and the decision was to ignore it for the reasons outlined above. A special development district was designed to cover that issue.Special development districts are meant to stand on their own regardless of what other properties have done. But wait a second, if that’s the case, why did the Vail Town Council keep referring to One Willow Bridge Road? Crossroads is too big compared to it, they said, repeatedly.So the applicant thought it fair to make comparisons to Vail Plaza Hotel and the Four Seasons, its newest Frontage Road neighbors. But “oh!” they exclaimed. SDDs are meant to stand on their own, regardless of what other properties have done. “You can’t compare to them.” Hold on there! One Willow Bridge Road was used as a comparison a minute ago when it suited the council’s purposes. But when the developer tried to use comparisons, they were dismissed. Another case of do as I say, not as I do. I tell you, you needed a score card and in the meantime you got a migraine.No one argued the facts. Crossroads is less dense, has less sight coverage, etc., than those two projects. But, and here’s another head scratcher, they said that those two don’t seem offensive because there are a bunch of little buildings in front of them supposedly blocking the mass. Pleeeeease. Those guys may as well have been rubber bands, they did so much stretching.Lack of logic abounded. Around and around it went until the final 4-3 vote was taken.So then the powers that be attempted to determine when the applicant should return. And bless his heart, he went up to the podium. “Return for what?” he asked. “I have no idea what I should return with.” He went on to explain that he had been before them previously with an appeal of a Planning and Environmental Commission decision and was remanded to the commission, where he finally got a 7-0 recommendation.So back to the Town Council for a final decision on June 21 and they voted 5-2 against. He was given some direction by the council, the mayor and the staff. He thought he addressed all of their issues and spent an additional $150,000 in the process.And back he came last Tuesday, only to be turned down once again.So a fair question was, “Return for what? I have no idea what you people want.” Take off an entire floor was the only specific suggestion. To me, 18 months into this process was a little late in the game to be coming up with such a drastic suggestion. And the applicant told them so. “I will not remove a floor.”To know what this council wants, you’d need a crystal ball. Better yet, remember the old Johnny Carson character, Karnac the Magnificent? Johnny would put on that turban, close his eyes, touch his fingers to his temples and ask you to guess what he was thinking.That’s how it went last Tuesday, minus the turbans. “We’ve been thinking for 18 months of how tall this building should be and if you guess right, bingo!” “We’ve got a plan in mind, and if you design it, we’ll approve it (maybe).” It was truly pathetic.So the applicant left not knowing what they wanted next. And do you know why he didn’t know? Because they didn’t know. But it didn’t take Mr. Knobel long to figure out his next step even if they couldn’t figure out theirs. He pulled the plug. As he said to me, Crossroads can sit there a long time just as it is. Instead of being tortured by the town, he’s going to enjoy life. Crossroads is now just a long-term investment in land rather than the redevelopment we so desperately need. He also asked me if I thought he was doing the right thing. I told him it is a shame, but I understood and that there would be a lot of people out there vicariously living through him and cheering. There are hundreds over the years who only wish they had the balls and the money to do the same. The only thing missing was the middle finger pointing to the sky. Just remember this come election time. Cleveland, Donovan, Logan, Slifer against; Hitt, Moffett, Ruottolo for. Write it down.Kaye Ferry writes a weekly column for the Daily. This column, as in the case of all personal columns, does not necessarily reflect the views of the Vail Daily.Vail, Colorado


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