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Those last loose ends

Kaye Ferry

Well round one and a half is completed. Crossroads made it through the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission and the first reading of the ordinance at the Town Council level. That means the second reading would typically happen on Feb. 21, but there’s a little more to it than that.There’s a very important document that must be completed as a condition to a second reading. It’s called developer improvement agreement. I’ll get to it in a moment, but first a few comments about last Tuesday’s process.We all had to sit through yet another presentation because this was technically a new application. Everything had to be reviewed for the record as if we hadn’t seen enough for the past two years.Public comment followed with the usual division of opinion. The reality was that we were simply going through the motions. I don’t believe a single person in that room changed the position they held when they initially walked through the door.For that matter, I’m not sure anyone has changed their opinion since the very first time they viewed the project. For those that were against it, it could never be tweaked enough. Those that were in favor pretty much liked it from day one.Several people commented on how divisive effect this process has been on the community. I would disagree. I clearly think the conference center caused more rifts and affected a larger and more diverse cross section.My personal observation is that for the most part, and I stress for the most part, there are two camps that have vehemently opposed this redevelopment from the beginning. They are the adjacent neighbors and the “old guard.”The neighborhood stance is nothing new. It seems as though any time anything happens in a neighborhood, tempers flare, letters abound and sides are taken. It’s to be expected. And the old guard just seems to believe the only way Vail can survive is to be mired in the past.Never having been a huge fan of the Tyrolean atmosphere, I’m not particularly sorry to see things change a little. I don’t mean we should rid ourselves of it all together, but it’s truly a time to update things. And I surely don’t believe that these changes will trigger the downfall of civilization, as we know it, let alone Vail Village. So for the most part, note the same words again, I think that only a small segment of the population perpetuated an opposition that hopefully will be behind us soon. But first the developer improvement agreement. This could be a really sticky area. It is a written agreement between the town and developer outlining the responsibilities and requirements of the off-site improvements. In this case, many on site issues will be defined, as well.Just quickly, the topics covered will be landscaping, streetscape improvements, loading and delivery, public art, condo declarations, public restrooms, etc. You get the idea. These are concepts that have been essentially agreed upon and now just have to be documented.But of all of them, only two are of real concern to me. Those are employee housing and the use of the plaza space.It was suggested at Tuesday’s meeting that the six occupants that must be housed as part of this project should be located on site. I have always disagreed with this method of addressing housing for several reasons.First, from a revenue standpoint, it would be better for the town to receive either real estate transfer tax money for the sale of the property or if it were converted to retail space, sales tax. To have such valuable real estate generate no income for the town makes no sense. Better that off-site housing be used to mitigate this requirement.That can be done in several ways. Either the developer can build new housing in the town and deed restrict it or, and I believe this is the best option, a housing pay-in-lieu fund can be created. As housing requirements are created as a result of redevelopment, a rate would be established that could be paid as an alternative to building random units. This fund could then be a source for redevelopment of Timber Ridge, for example, which currently has roughly 400 beds. The hope is to increase that number. However, no funding source has been identified.I might add that in most communities, if pay-in-lieu is chosen by a developer as his or her means of addressing housing requirements, the rate charged is generally significantly higher than the going rate for a comparable space on the open market.But it works for both parties. The developer is not faced with developing employee units, albeit it is a more expensive option. And the town receives funds for and ultimately controls employee housing. Seems like a win-win to me.This is not a novel idea. It just needs to be implemented. The housing authority and planning commission have each recommended it on several occasions. So let’s use Crossroads as the trigger to finally put this plan in place.In no case should existing properties be deed restricted to satisfy housing requirements. The whole point is to create new inventory, not just rearrange it.As for the plaza area, as I see it, while that space belongs to the developer, the balance of control should reside primarily with the town. But there has to be a way to strike the appropriate balance. Keep in mind that the additional height, etc., that was granted to this project was a result of the public benefits provided. As this is the largest public benefit conveyed, it must be accessible to the public almost at will. And the definition of “almost “is where the greatest negotiation and diplomacy will be required.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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