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Still too many loose ends

A little more Vail conference center poop: There’s an awful lot of loose ends out there with the first reading of the ballot question ordinance looming out there and set for Sept. 6. Way too many for my liking.Parking has yet to be resolved. Most recently, the town is suggesting that the Vail Resorts spaces should be used to mitigate the conference center requirements. Clearly that was not the intent of VR when they offered $4.3 million to help solve the parking problem. And of course, you know that the charter bus lot is the location of the proposed construction site. The name indicates what that space has been used for. Tour buses, vans and oversized vehicles in general. Where will they park when that lot is no longer available? Then there’s housing. So far not a word has been mentioned at the Planning and Environmental Commission meetings as to how housing requirements will be met in order to satisfy the usual requirements. No. I take that back. All of these issues were raised at the very first planning commission hearing, but still no answers from the applicant (aka, the town). It’s safe to say that a private developer would have been told not to come back until their application was complete. But then this project is trying to bend all the rules.Fire regulations pose another issue. The fire department has indicated that they will require a sprinkler system be installed in the lower level of the old Lionshead parking structure when they break through the wall to connect it to the new parking area. The town intends to appeal that decision, but can’t do so until after the election.Besides all of that, there are still two major debates. Should the new tax be on lodging only or a combination of lodging and retail sales? That’s a fairly new idea brought to the table by the lodging community itself, which feels it will be shouldering an unfair portion of the burden.Last but not least there is the question of sunset. The old tax has a sunset clause, which means that when the debt is paid off, the tax will no longer be collected. The new tax currently has no such provision, and at least one councilman has said he would not support a sunset on the new tax.So I guess the question really is how many loose ends can be hanging out there when we go to the polls and still allow us make an informed choice? To me, the reality is that while we know a lot more than we did in 2002, we still don’t have all the facts. More importantly, until these issues get addressed, we can’t know the final costs. Are we being asked once more to vote on this thing with only part of the information we need to make an educated decision? Are we willing to say yes again, only to be surprised after the fact by the escalating financial implications?I don’t know about you, but unless all of the information is available, I won’t be voting in favor. That’s the mistake we made the first time. And it’s the point I’ve been trying to make for some time now. It has to stand on its own and pay for itself. But how will we know if that’s possible if we don’t have the facts? Three years later and it still seems like a guessing game.Let’s switch gears for a minute. Once again, the town doesn’t get it. What possible explanation can there be for closing a major portion of the village parking structure to paint new lines on the floor? Did I mention it was the last week in July? When are they going to figure out there are six weeks of summer business and we’d better not interfere with that?On the day in question, I was between meetings and came back to the office at 11:30. As I approached the structure, I noticed a line on the Frontage Road. As it was obviously not a powder day, I began to wonder what was causing the backup.Slowly the line progressed and once inside, the problem became clear. A good portion of the structure was closed. As I followed the parade of cars in search of one of the limited number of spaces, I observed many of them leaving in frustration and heading out onto the Frontage Road to who knows where. The only thing that was clear was they would not be spending time or money that afternoon in the village.So I called the town to see what the problem was. Was there an oil leak? Had the roof fallen in? I was in search of what clearly had to be an emergency to cause us to close off these parking spaces in July.Well, none of the above. But like always, there was an excuse – just not one good enough to interfere with business, in my mind. It seemed like a good day to paint new stripes on the floor, I was told. Never mind that it was mid-day in one of the six weeks of real business we have during the six months that the mountain is closed.And yet they keep telling us that the town and its staff understand the needs of the business community. I don’t think so. We have no ability to make sales unless the guests can get into town in the first place. So the question remains: Is there a beaurocrat alive that will they ever get the connection between sales tax collections and their paychecks? Not until someone gets fired for these stupid decisions, would be my guess. I’ll ask again. Who works for whom, and where is the accountability?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 “Columnists” or search for keyword “ferry.” Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily. This column, as with all personal columns, does not necessarily reflect the views of the Vail Daily.


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