Snacks, pizza, then hardball for Vail CEO
VAIL ” Rob Katz, the CEO who whisked Vail Resorts’ headquarters out of Eagle County, stood in the back of the Vail Town Council Chambers. He fidgeted with his Blackberry. He snacked on peanuts.
An hour passed. He sat in the hallway, eating pizza. He idly chatted with his entourage.
Another hour passed. A Boulder resident, Katz peered into the chambers as council members spoke in government-speak about “SDDs,” “signage” and “supplemental appropriations.”
After three hours, at 10:30 p.m., the Town Council adjourned.
Still, Katz sat in the audience.
Then, the council said they would reconvene as something called the Vail Reinvestment Authority, which was created in 2003 to help Lionshead recover from the so-called “blight” that afflicted it.
The aging ski village, built in 1970s, was criticized as outdated and unappealing, and the authority was created to implement the tax incremental financing that would be used to fund improvements there.
They were reconvening from a meeting that had started 11 hours earlier that day.
On Tuesday, the Vail Reinvestment Authority was asked to approve the agreement that gave Vail Resorts more time to come up with a plan to house 120 workers as part of the Arrabelle at Vail Square project.
The $250 million Arrabelle, at the center of Lionshead, includes a posh hotel, condos and stores such as Burton, Quiksilver, Patagonia, Starbucks and Haagen-Dazs. It is advertised as the keystone of the renewal of Lionshead. Vail Resorts, which also runs Vail Mountain, is the developer.
The Town Council ” whose members are the same as the Vail Reinvestment Authority ” had approved the agreement one week earlier, a temporary reprieve to the months of wrangling over housing that had led up to the planned opening of the Arrabelle, set for this week. Vail Resorts has said it may come up with a plan to house the employees at the Solar Vail site on the north side of the interstate.
But, late on this Tuesday night, as the Vail Reinvestment Authority, the council members had concerns about this agreement.
Paragraph 23 was problematic.
Margaret Rogers, the retired litigator who was recently elected to the Town Council after pledging she would be a tough negotiator with developers, questioned this Paragraph 23.
It seemed to let Vail Resorts off the hook for providing interim employee housing until a permanent solution was in place.
Katz sprang to the podium.
The council members, he said, had given Vail Resorts the agreement, and now they were revising it. He said he was very troubled.
The inspections for the opening of Arrabelle would commence the very next day, he said, and now a major change was being suggested.
“If our company came in and said this, we’d be laughed out of the room,” he said.
The approval of the Vail Reinvestment Authority was not even needed, he said, glancing at his lawyer from time to time.
“There’s no need for the Vail … ” whatever this is ” to approve the agreement,” he said. “I didn’t realize the town would be hiding behind several entities.”
Vail Resorts will continue to lease beds at Timber Ridge as long as it’s there, Katz assured the council.
The episode was a glimpse into the sometimes-contentious negotiations that had been ongoing between the town and the resort over previous months, much of it behind closed doors, over the Arrabelle employee housing.
Other council members seemed assuaged by Katz’s promises.
“I can’t see foresee any reason why Vail Resorts would stop using that housing,” said Mayor Dick Cleveland.
It was approaching 11 p.m.
Rogers wanted to make it clear: “What we’re approving means that Vail Resorts is no longer to provide interim housing pending the completion of the (permanent housing) project.”
The other council members assented.
The agreement was approved by a vote of 4-2.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or email@example.com.