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Talking about a land giveaway

Kaye Ferry

This is truly a small place. I don’t need to tell you that.It’s also almost impossible to keep a secret. But you know that, too.So why were the staff and elected officials surprised when the community got a sniff of what they were up to in Lionshead?Did they think that if they moved fast enough, no one would notice? But fast doesn’t even come close to describing this project.Or maybe it was just wishful thinking. Maybe they expected that no one would react until it was too late. Well, they were wrong. This time they were screwing with people’s lives. Their finances. Their futures. When you do that, you get people’s attention. And then they act.But the bigger question is why? Who stands to benefit? And what are the benefits? Money? A line on a resume? A plaque on the wall? Another cocktail party invitation? Power? Whatever it is, it eventually boils down to greed and selfishness. And most of all, arrogance. Because, and I’ll say it once again, none of this is urgent, because none of the reasons you’re being given for urgency exist. Yet speed is the word of the day. I understand after last week’s outpouring from the business community, the sentiment was that they’d better hurry faster. I guess, implying before somebody else finds out and stages a bigger turnout. I also hear that one of the developers has been urged to “improve” his proposal if he wants to be considered. I also hear they wish I would stop writing. Sorry. Not until I have nothing to write about. Talk about job security.I’ve been told that this behavior is normal. It exists in all towns. All governments have special interests manipulating the scene. I have one response. I don’t live in those places. I live here. I think we have a right and a responsibility to make it the best place we can. And that means demanding honesty and transparency from our elected officials and the staff we hire.So back to the question raised during citizen participation at the last Town Council meeting. “Where are they when we need them?” was asked in reference to all of those opposed to Crossroads. That was a private project on private land. This is a private project on public land. But is it? Oh, it’s public land all right. But when they’re talking about giving the land away for development, all of a sudden we’re sharing in that development. You and me. So it’s a partnership. We should be consulted. And I don’t mean after the fact.So come on, guys. They’re about to give away the site you’ve always wanted for a performing arts center or skate board park or rec center or second sheet of ice. Isn’t it about time to get involved before they succeed in trading away one of our greatest assets and last large piece of developable land in the town core?Then there are the public benefits. They’d like you to believe they’re being provided by replacing 1,150 parking spaces that we don’t need replaced now because we already have 1,150 perfectly good spaces that have a life of another 25 years. I don’t know about you, but as cloudy as they’ve made this whole thing, it’s crystal clear to me and anybody else who knows the players, the game and can smell BS miles away. Somebody’s up to something and it’s not our benefit that is their concern.But let’s not forget the biggest misconception. It is that the structure can come down in April 2008 and be back up, with cars parked between the white lines, by November 2008. I asked about that, too. The answer? It will take a perfect world. What’s that mean? It means perfect weather. It means no construction surprises. It means a full workforce. It means complete cooperation with the town and all its departments and CDOT. Yeah, and I’d like to go on the next space shuttle.So what happens if those conditions aren’t met? There will be cars all over the place that winter. How many? The busiest day that I can remember had 1,200 cars on the Frontage Road. Add those numbers up and we could have a potential nightmare of 2,500 cars out there.But let’s be honest, we won’t. Long before that happens, people will stop coming.And there’s one more piece to this puzzle. Vail Resorts. I can’t believe they will sign off on this unless there’s a fool-proof plan in place for handling parking. We can only hope that they will also be sympathetic to the Lionshead merchants’ plight and their request. The Lionshead parking structure cannot come down until there’s another up and running to accommodate all of those misplaced cars. And the merchants aren’t just talking about winter. They need it up and running for the summer months, as well.As I said. It’s a long way from over. … Remember the six degrees of separation? Well I don’t know how many this is, but life is certainly curious. Open/Hill is one of the two prospective developers still in the running for the parking structure redevelopment. If they get the nod, their hotels (W and St. Regis) will be operated by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. Adam Aron, former CEO and chairman of the board of Vail Resorts, has just been appointed to the board of directors of Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Is it possible that Adam could end up living in his ArraBelle unit and walking a block east to work? Just kidding. But nonetheless, it is indeed a small world, particularly at the top of the heap.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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