This train’s in a hurry | VailDaily.com
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This train’s in a hurry

Wake up, guys. The train is leaving the station, and so far you’re not on it.I actually didn’t think the Lionshead parking structure redevelopment would be my new mission. I believed what I was initially told, albeit with some reservations. I can only say that some of the information given me back in May was an attempt to put off an answer until it was too late. My editor has said it’s dangerous to say in print that someone lied, but I believe that is exactly what happened.I’ll run through the timetable again for you. On Thursday, April 27, the Vail Town Council received the information they were to review for the following Tuesday’s (May 2) meeting. For most of them, it was the first time they heard someone was interested in redeveloping the parking structure. Strangely enough, it was listed under “town manager’s report,” which is usually reserved for innocuous updates, certainly not a place where consideration of a half-billion dollar project would/should be scheduled.Then on May 2, the Town Council was asked to issue a “request for proposals” so the Dallas application could be legally considered, along with any others that might be interested. It was the last item on the agenda, and after 10 minutes of discussion, the answer was yes. Send one out.I was stunned for several reasons. We had just put the conference center question to bed – again. We’d had no discussion of other uses for that property. How could we issue an RFP if the community hadn’t discussed what they want? Well maybe we didn’t but someone clearly did because an RFP was ready to go.So I asked the obvious. “Where did this come from? And why didn’t anybody know?” Don’t worry, “we’re on a fishing expedition,” I was told. “We just want to see what’s out there.” “What about public discussion?” I asked. “There’ll be plenty of time for that later,” they said.That was Tuesday night. On Saturday, May 6, four days later, there was an article in the Daily saying, “The town will start taking proposals Monday and seeks to choose a developer by August.” Sounded like more than a fishing expedition to me, but what do I know?Naturally, I wrote about it on May 9. On May 10 my phone rang. “Let’s meet for coffee. I think you don’t understand,” said a council member. Right. I’m the one who doesn’t get it. So here’s what I was told. “Don’t worry. We want public input. There’s plenty of time. Cool your heels. This is too important to rush into. We all know that. Trust me.”Oh, yeah. And do you remember the press release? The one dated May 1? I know you need a scorecard about now, but think back. What was May 1? It was the day before the May 2 Town Council meeting. The day before ANY “on the record” discussion. The day before the council vote. Kind of curious, then, that a press release was issued on May 1 for “immediate release” stating, “VAIL SEEKS PROPOSALS TO REDEVELOP LIONSHEAD PARKING STRUCTURE; DEVELOPMENT GOALS INCLUDE ADDITIONAL PARKING, NEW RETAIL AND CONFERENCE CENTER FACILITY.” Oooops! How could that go out before there was any discussion? Simple. There was discussion, just not with the community.So they kept on rolling. The RFP was issued May 10. Letters of intent from interested developers were due May 25. Developers’ written intent to respond were due June 9. Respondents were to provide 18 copies of their qualifications and concepts by June 28. Selected teams were to make presentations to the review committee on July 17. That’s not the end. The date for notifying the teams to proceed to the next phase was Aug. 2. Done. On Aug. 1, the Town Council authorized the two left standing to proceed to phase 2, which is estimated to cost $3 million per developer. And you, the public, haven’t seen one single thing yet. So where is this public process that I didn’t need to worry about? Where is all the public input that I was guaranteed we had plenty of time for? Oh, it will happen. Someday. When it’s too late, because this thing has taken on a life of its own. As I said at the beginning, the train has left the station, and you’re not on it. And it’s a runaway train at that.To continue, phase 2 submittal are due Sept. 5. Presentations will be made Sept. 13 with an open house. The final proposal/developer will be selected on Sept. 19 – 140 days START TO FINISH! Well, 140 weeks is more typical. As I said, with the speed of light. For a half-billion dollar project. That’s correct, $500 million.So I have more questions. Where was this RFP noticed? Did we go out of town as we did for the last conference center when we did a national search for what started out as a $40 million project? What happened to the other six respondents? Out of curiosity, just who was the review committee that met on July 17? It wasn’t me. Was it you? Or anybody you know? Who is making these huge decisions? And incidentally, does anyone know what the value of that land is before we start parceling it out? Has it been appraised by at least two qualified firms?I”ll tell you what, you’d better get up off that couch right now and start making calls and writing letters and attending meetings or there’ll be a hole in the ground while you’re still thinking about it. The only thing that will slow this down is a huge public outcry or another petition.I haven’t even touched on the proposals yet. That’s next week. 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. Vail, Colorado


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