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Some unanswered questions

Kaye Ferry

Vail CO, ColoradoThey say it’s never over till it’s over. With the town of Vail, you might think that axiom was written just for them.You should have guessed that we’d be back to the Lions-head parking structure sooner or later, but this is ridiculous. It seems as though we no sooner thought we’d reached an agreement when very conveniently, as most business owners were out of town, up it came again.The topic was raised at the May 1 Town Council meeting in such a way that it was unclear what was being said. One might wonder if that was not the plan. But clarification was requested and given reluctantly and with a severe case of attitude by the town manager.So what was the fuss? Apparently research is being done as to what “alternative parking solutions” might be available if a bunch of what-ifs occur. It goes something like this:What if Vail Resorts doesn’t start Ever Vail in a timely fashion?Which leads to: What if the Lionshead parking structure starts first?Followed by: What if the Lionshead structure isn’t finished by ski season?And finally: What if we’re out of luck for parking by December? Then what?This all comes on the heels of an onslaught of Vail business owners marching to the podium a few months ago asking those very questions. So why did they go away? Because they were assured that there was a sequence that would be followed that would prevent any such possibility.They were assured that the West Lionshead, aka Ever Vail, structure would be up and running before an inch of concrete in the current structure meets its fate with the wrecking ball. So all of these what-ifs should be moot points. Apparently, not so. So I’ll ask the same question that I asked months ago, almost a year ago, actually. What’s the rush? To begin with, we have been told on good authority that there is none from a technical standpoint. We’ve been told by the former owner of Prestressed Concrete of Colorado that there’s another 50 years left in that parking structure. He ought to know. He built it, as well as the village structure, the two old gondola buildings, Eagle’s Nest and the Eisenhower Tunnel. He went so far as to do an informal walkabout in January just to verify that. This is not “Chicken Little” and the sky is not falling. That structure will work just fine for a long time.Then there’s the developer. If he’s said it once, he’s said it a dozen times. While he’d like sooner, he’ll take later as a starting date. They’re in it for the long haul. He has no intention of leaving, regardless of the time table. And don’t forget the big guys in the corporate offices. They’ve also verified the sequence of events. They have as much if not more to lose if customers are turned away for lack of parking. Besides, there is little if any reason to assume that they’ll sign off on anything until they get exactly what they want out of Ever Vail. My guess is that’s exactly what’s making the town crazy. They don’t control this deal no matter what they say or how hard they try. So what is the rush, then? We’ve got a perfectly good and functioning place to park cars until we get everything in place for a relatively easy transition. We’ve got a developer willing to start on our terms. We’ve got Vail Resorts with the final say and, according to my conversations last week, they haven’t changed their position on what’s first.Besides, who’s kidding who? The town is looking at “alternative parking solutions”? If they exist, why haven’t we used them every Friday and Saturday when cars are all over the Frontage Road? As for the Lionshead merchants, they’ve made it absolutely clear that even the Ever Vail solution would be a hardship until the new structure goes up. Under no circumstance will busing in from Ford Park be a workable solution. Or valet parking. Or anything that’s not in easy walking distance to their front doors.Personally, I think it’s about egos and notches on their guns. But this is not the Old West. So it must be about resume building and plaques above the doors. You know, those ones that say, “Built while so and so was in town government.” But here’s where they’re wrong. There is not one ounce of support for taking a chance with this, especially when there’s no reason to. As Bill Jensen said back at the Nov. 7, 2006, Town Council meeting: “On behalf of Vail Resorts and in support of the Lionsheadmerchants, there cannot be even one-half of a percent error on this parking issue.” If the town wants this process hurried, they clearly are at odds with the Vail business community.I don’t know how much clearer it could be. When Vail Resorts gets what they want for Ever Vail, only then will they consider signing off on the Lionshead parking structure. And I suspect it won’t be one minute sooner. Then and only then can the next project move forward. At this point, the business community’s fate is closely aligned with that of Vail Resorts, and we are depending on them for protection because it seems pretty clear it won’t come from town government.But this is something that must continue to be monitored. The Lionshead merchants in particular have had a long, tough haul these last couple of years and they deserve some protection. Make no mistake, they have the support of the Vail Village merchants, who also understand that this parking resolution affects all businesses in the town of Vail. 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 “Commentary” or search for keyword “ferry.” Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.


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