Seeking suggestions |

Seeking suggestions

Geraldine Haldner

Discussion topics include:

– A recommendation to build and staff a new fire station in West Vail.

– A proposal to create an Urban Renewal Authority, which would call upon the use of Tax Increment Financing to fund future public improvements in Lionshead.

– A recommendation by the Vail Parking Task Force to retain the public parking program in its current form for the remainder of the season.

A new fire station?

Building a fire station in West Vail has been a burning issue for years.

“It’s been very frustrating,” says Vail Fire Chief John Gulick, the third fire chief to lobby for another station. “It comes and goes every year, but the need for it stays.”

With Vail Pass less than 10 miles from East Vail – and Dowd Junction just a mile west of West Vail – calls to traffic-related incidents make up a third of the department’s annual call volume of about 1,900 alarms.

“You get spread out really quickly, and as soon as you have two calls at one end of town you expose yourself to no coverage on the other end,” says Gulick.

“If we had another fire station, we could spread out our equipment and take better care of it,” Gulick says. “We call it triage. The captains decide which calls are most life-threatening or serious and abandon the least serious ones.”

Opponents, on the other hand, cite the lack of public outcry for a fire station in West Vail.

“How can we make the right decision if we don’t have all the answers,” says Vail Town Councilwoman Diana Donovan.

Vail Town Manager Bob McLaurin says the issue has been lingering for too long.

“From my perspective, I think (the council) needs to make a decision, so we all can get on with life.”

Still talking “TIF’

The $9 million gap between what a Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, district could generate and what the identified list of public projects are estimated to cost will be the subject of a public hearing before the Vail Town Council Tuesday.

Using TIF, a controversial and often-litigated financing mechanism, Vail could finance as much as $7 million for new lanes on South Frontage Road, pretty pavers in the Lionshead Mall, even a second transportation center on top of the Lionshead parking structure.

The identified projects, however, would cost the town at least $16 million, according to preliminary estimates. So even if Lionshead developers agree to pay for half of a dozen public projects and property owners say “yes” to a taxing authority with condemnation powers, Vail town leaders still would be $9 million short of making Lionshead’s plazas and pedestrian walkways world-class.

With as many as $500 million in private projects announced, town leaders want to get their foot in the door and reconstruct Lionshead’s aging and drab-looking public areas before as many as a dozen private developments in Lionshead are completed. In order to employ TIF, town leaders have to identify district boundaries, opt for an underlying governing mechanism – either a Downtown Development Authority or an Urban Renewal Authority – and form a district. As part of TIF, which essentially allows the authority to borrow money against future increases in taxes, the district has to be studied for areas of “blight.”

Cracked sidewalks and inadequate emergency-service access, among other things, can all be reasons to use TIF to pay for the redevelopment of a area that will otherwise fall into disrepair beyond economic revival.

Once the district is formed and approved, the tax base is frozen and bonds can be taken out against future tax-increase estimates. The debt has to be paid back with the increased tax revenues over the next 20 to 30 years.

Task force members Tuesday are expected to recommend ways to close the $9 million gap between bonding power and the public project wish list.

Vail’s director of community development, Russ Forrest says Town Council members are expected to chose a Urban Renewal District or a Downtown Development Authority, set district boundaries and give directions on alternative funding as well as cost-saving options.

Additional funding sources, such as a user tax on building materials, a special-improvements district or a property-tax increase could be used to make up for half of the $9 million gap.

And what about parking?

A third topic for which the council seeks public comment includes a recommendation by the Vail Parking Task Force to retain the public parking program in its current form for the remainder of the season, with some minor modifications, such as the placement of additional signs for short-term parking.

Comments can be submitted in advance by calling the Vail Town Council at 479-1860 or via sending an e-mail to

Support Local Journalism