Tangles of bureaucracy
Thank goodness someone has some sense. But I’ll let you decide. Here’s the story: A Vail homeowner went into the town Community Development Department to inquire about painting her house. She wanted to change the color to something new. But more importantly, the wood siding was deteriorating badly, so she started in early May in order to ward off more damage. She was told that someone would get back to her in three days so she could begin painting to otherwise advise her of the need to appear before the Design and Review Board.When she received no response in three days, she made several calls to verify the disposition of her application. When she received no response, she assumed she was good to go. So she hired a painter and started with her project by applying the primer. You could probably finish the story yourself right now. But I’ve got a column to do, so bear with me. Another week passed with no contact from the town. You guessed it. The call came telling her she’d have to appear before the Design and Review Board. The DRB visited her home, and when she appeared before them she was advised that the color was not acceptable. She adjusted the color choice and started the process over, and was told no a second time. She then appealed the decision to the Town Council, stating that she “failed to see where I have violated the aesthetic sensibilities of the community,” including the fact that earth tones were the color choice .She also shared that she has been a practicing interior designer in the valley for the past 14 years.Finally sanity prevailed. In that room, of all places (who said all I do is pick on them?). There were the usual questions, such as “Was procedure followed?” etc. The questions then got a little more explicit. “Are there standard colors to choose from?” No. “So then the decision seems arbitrary.” Duh.Isn’t that the biggest complaint when you’re dealing with any beauracracy? And is the town government any different? Former Vail Town Manager Bob McLaurin told me that it’s pretty simple in Jackson. There’s a color palate with many choices. As long as you choose a pre-approved color, have a nice day. You can also vary a few degrees either way. Good luck with the paint job. Only if you’re taking a leap do you even have to ask.In the absence of some absolutes, all of these decisions become arbitrary. That simply means that personal preference enters into the decision-making process. Who is to say that just because someone has obtained a bureaucratic position, their taste is necessarily better than anyone else’s? In fact, it would seem that in the absence of some glaring atrocity, the choice should be left to the guy who owns the place and pays the bills.But all’s well that ends well. The applicant is now happily improving her property and improving her neighborhood at the same time. Many of her neighbors sat in the council room last Tuesday to show their support. And one councilman, in voting to overturn the arbitrary decision, asked if she would mind painting some of the other houses in her neighborhood while she was at it. So it ended as it should have, with a citizen having some rights over her own property. But remember I said at the beginning that she started in early May? She finally got the go ahead on July 21. What a system. AND MORE PARADE: As I said previously, this was my first year to watch the parade. In the past, I’ve always been behind the counter at the Grind only to pop out now and then. So watching it from start to finish gave me a new perspective. What I was really struck by was who was absent.! Where was Vail Resorts? Aren’t they part of the community? Then there’s the town’s second-largest employer, the Vail Valley Medical Center. And I have to admit, with great embarrassment, the notable absence of the business community. If I have anything to say about it, the Vail Chamber and Business Association will be marching next year. I hope this is a heads-up to everyone else, as well. Community spirit is severely lacking here, and it’s time to crank it up.THE TIMES, THEY ARE A CHANGIN’: I was in Eagle on business the other day, so I decided to do my grocery shopping at City Market while I was there. In the checkout line, I got behind a woman who was well into her 80s – I can only judge it by the age of my own mother. She was accompanied by a much younger man who appeared to be her helper for the day. As she wrote her check, she was asked for a driver’s license, which she didn’t have. I would guess it’s been a very long time since she was behind the wheel of a car since in addition to using the cart as a walker, she also had a portable oxygen tank. When she couldn’t produce a driver’s license, the manager was called. Apparently she hadn’t cashed a check there for some time, but they could tell that she had done so in the past. After much ado, they settled on her Social Security number, which she dug out of her purse and retrieved from some medical card. All for an $8 check. I was about to pay her bill myself when the situation was resolved. In days past, I remember forgetting my purse altogether and coming back the next day to pay for my groceries. So much for progress.Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail email@example.com. For past columns, vaildaily.com-columnists or search:ferry. Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.