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The two sides of Vail Resorts

How about if we catch up on the evil empire? They’re the guys we have that schizophrenic relationship with.

Some call it gobbledygook. I called it bait and switch. Because once again they pulled in their smooth-talking attorney who is the absolute master of smoke and mirrors.

What now? Vail Resorts came to the Planning Environmental Commission last week to request an extension on their conditional use permits in Lionshead. Currently they have two permits that have been in place since 2005 and expire either in January or April 2008, depending on your interpretation. In reality, both of these dates are incidental because VR would like three-year extensions on both.



But there’s a problem. According to the ordinance under which these permits were issued, three years is the limit for this type of conditional use. But VR wants three more. In order to accommodate their request, the town council will have to re-write the ordinance, something I’m not sure that they’d do for anybody else. The planning commission has agreed to a one-year extension subject to the town council’s agreement to re-write the ordinance.

“What’s the big deal?” you might ask. The big deal is that these permits were issued to allow VR to use first-floor (previously retail) space for offices, something not allowed under the town code, thus the conditional-use permits.



Per the Town of Vail’s documents: “As stated in 2005, it was the applicant’s intention for these business office uses to be permanently located within the Arrabelle or North Day Lot office building.” The permits were designed to give them some time between the demolition of the Sunbird and the completion of the new buildings. It was further stated that while the permits were issued for three years, they were to be reviewed annually, something that has never been done.

So here we are. But wait, there’s more. Due to a change of plans, none of these offices will be located in Arrabelle. And the north day lot is still up for grabs because the town asked them to hold off until all the decisions are made on the Lionshead parking structure. The current plan is to move all of these offices to “Ever Vail,” the plans for which have not surfaced in any official capacity.

What does this mean? Surely no one believes that Ever Vail will be up and running in three years. Which sounds like VR will be back again for another extension. And if I get my calculator out, it adds up to maybe nine years of first-floor space being used for offices.



The way I see it, whatever arguments are used today to support the request for these extensions, these same arguments will be used again in three years because they’ll be in exactly the same place. No place for their offices. Don’t want to leave town. Bringing employees in everyday to work.

But it’s all beside the point. Because the intention of the current code controlling first-floor spaces is to limit their use to businesses that generate sales tax, not provide office space. And once given an exception, it should not become the rule.

But the smooth-as-silk attorney who I mentioned had an answer for that. They “rescued” “undesirable retail space” that had been “on the market for a long time.” And that may have been the case. Then. But not anymore. Retail space is at a premium now because of all the construction. Just for starters, all of those retail businesses that were displaced from Crossroads are on a mission looking for new locations. And there’s more. Those with office leases in Crossroads would like to have the same opportunity as VR, the ability to locate on the first floor somewhere.

But the real point is that there are rules. And unfortunately the big guys have a bit of the Paris Hilton syndrome. They think the rules don’t apply to them. And even if they do, they’ll figure out a way to change them. Quite frankly, that’s not good enough because fair is fair. Or at least it should be.

And just when you think they’re the bad guys …. Go Rob!

Our town manager recently made the trek to Broomfield to meet with the CEO of Vail Resorts. The topic was the Lionshead parking structure and of course, Ever Vail (ugh! How did they ever come up with that name?).

The result? Mr. Katz made it perfectly clear. The Lionshead parking structure will not come down until the Ever Vail parking structure is up.

I’ve said since day one, the business community has only one hope for the solution that they’ve been lobbying for and that is to align themselves with VR on this one. Because every once in a while our goals are completely in sync and this is one of those times.

As I said, go Rob!

As a little addendum, Vail Resorts has been taking a lot of hits in Aspen as result of their new role with the Hotel Jerome. Long one of Aspen’s icons, the Jerome was recently sold and Rock Resorts, a subsidiary of VR, was hired to manage it.

After 19 years with the hotel, the much-loved general manager was given his pink slip on the first day. Not an auspicious start.

I was actually more shocked by the president of the Aspen Chamber and Resort Association’s unprofessional comments about Vail coming to Aspen, calling it “horrible and disappointing.”

Then Aspen Skico’s public relations director saying it’s “an odd partnership, like cats and dogs sleeping together.”

Why are they always so concerned about us when we seldom pay attention to what they’re doing now that Hunter’s gone?

Perhaps they should be a little more introspective before they ride their high horses wearing “Vail sucks” T-shirts. Grow up.

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 biweekly column for the Daily.


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