The riot at Vail’s town hall
Vail CO, Colorado
Silly me. I thought I was simply going to a meeting on the new loading and delivery system for Vail Village. Little did I know.
I sometimes wonder how things get so screwed up in the Town of Vail. And as usual, the process was as much a part of the problem as the actual information that was presented.
I almost don’t know where to start.
I received two calls from Vail Chamber and Business Association members asking if I was going to the May 28 meeting on loading and delivery. One merchant was requesting I go because he was out of town, another simply wanted support.
Being somewhat baffled that I had not received a notice, I called the police department to inquire. Apparently “invitations” had not been issued as they were intending to start with a group of delivery companies first and go from there. While I was assured that I was welcome to attend, my offer of sending out a notice to my members was rejected as premature.
When I arrived at town hall, the room was packed and it didn’t take long to see that tempers were also flared. It seems that while the business community had not been invited to attend, the method used for notifying the delivery companies was via a notice posted at Checkpoint Charlie.Everyone passing through the gate saw the notice and word spread like wildfire throughout the Village and hence the room was filled, attracting people that are rarely if ever seen at town hall.
To bring you up to speed, here it is in a nutshell. As part of the “Front Door Project” at the base of the Vista Bahn, loading and delivery facilities were incorporated to provide mandatory loading and delivery spaces for the village, primarily Bridge Street and upper and lower Gore Creek Drive. Meadow Drive, etc. will eventually be routed through similar systems at Solaris, Willow Bridge and Vail Plaza Club as they’re completed. The goal is to move trucks off the streets.
I can’t go into all of the criticisms waged mostly by the restaurant community, but here are some highlights.
Two elevators apparently are not nearly enough for product arriving in a very concentrated time in the morning.
Access throughout town will be down Bridge Street because the elevators unload near the lift ticket office. Wall Street’s abundance of stairs eliminates it as an option.
While Meadow Drive businesses were never intended to use the Lodge facility, they are expected to do so now until the other loading and delivery areas are completed.
Once in the loaded and delivery docks, engines must be turned off generating great concern over refrigeration systems.
Moving delicate product, i.e., parsley, great distances runs the risk of it being damaged by the weather.
Heavy articles such as beer kegs will be difficult to maneuver downhill on Bridge Street when the flow of traffic is uphill.
Many restaurants inspect things like produce and fish before they accept delivery. It is unclear where that inspection will occur.
Drivers expect the whole process to require considerably more time and labor and will pass the cost on to their customer.
“Why don’t TOV trucks have to follow the same rules?”
You get the idea. The debate was heated and fueled by the fact that no decision makers were in the room, an observation not missed by the attendees as over and over they inquired as to “Where is the town manager? The town council?” “Why are we discussing this with you when you won’t be making the decisions?”
And it was even further fueled by the attitude of the town staff. Because here’s where it really went awry.
Remember the cost concern? Business owners were told that the town staff had discussed the opportunity for a “cottage industry” delivery business to develop. “I owned a business, so I know.”
“What? And add another layer of cost to the process?” The response from the Milton Friedman of the Vail Police was this: “I’ll be glad to sit down with you at a later date and discuss a free-market economy.”
And those kegs coming down Bridge Street through a sea of humanity coming up? “I used to be a Teamster, so I understand.”
It got rather ugly as the comment was thrown from the audience, “I don’t like your smug attitude one bit!”
As I said, it wasn’t pretty. Could it have been avoided? I think so. But the blame must be shared.
Quite frankly, for the business community to act shocked with statements like “Why are we just now hearing about this?” “I’m disgusted that it’s gotten this far without our input.” and “How did this happen?” was somewhat unfair. This whole project took a very long time to wind its way through the process as anyone familiar with town government surely knows. Planning and Environmental Commission. Design Review Board. Town Council. Forest Service. You name it.
So some of the blame must be laid at the feet of those who traditionally don’t pay attention until those very feet are on fire.
And then there’s the town. Like it or not, at this point they are perfectly aware of the fairly uninvolved attitude most taxpayers have with the system. While the beaurocrats are busy doing their jobs, which clearly includes being paid to go to all of these meetings, the business community is doing the same. They are busy running businesses in one of the most challenging environments in the country. And they don’t have a lot of time left to randomly sit at town hall.
What does this mean?
If the Town of Vail’s about to embark on a new system that is to change the way business has been conducted for 45 years, they need to go the extra mile and get input before a riot occurs like it did last Thursday.
Unless they like riots.
Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail email@example.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 biweekly column for the Daily.
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