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Town must follow its rules

Kaye Ferry

The Vail Planning and Environmental Commission had another conference center work session on the 25th. They’re trying to deal with some technical issues that will not only effect the conference center, its costs and ultimately, the ballot question. They could have a drastic effect on future private development.As I mentioned last week, the town seems to be delivering the message that they do not have to comply with the same regulations that every private developer has to meet. Let’s start with parking. Regs require that for every 165 square feet of seating capacity, one parking space must be built. 40,000 square feet of the conference center space fits the staff’s definition. That comes to 243 parking spaces. There’s another 14,000-21,000 square feet of pre-function, registration and vestibule space that in the staff’s mind does not have to be counted – a subject of debate between the applicant (in this case, the town) and the Planning and Environmental Commission. Add those and an additional 85-127 spaces would be required for a total of between 328-370.But the town only wants to build 125 new spaces. And don’t be confused. 320 is the number you hear and that’s accurate. But Vail Resorts is paying for 125 of those to help ease the general parking problem and 70 are replacements for those lost due to the reconfiguration of the Lionshead structure. The net new spaces as presented will be 125 for the conference center.So the town hired two consulting firms to help build a case to support their goal of 125. Yet as we all know, numbers can do whatever you want them to do. The consultants earned their money. They gave them the answer that they were looking for, and one that other developers only wish they could use; 125 will do. Here’s the rationale.The projection for the conference center is that it will be used in off-season, shoulder season, mud season, summer season, etc. – all times when the town isn’t busy and theoretically, parking is available. So why build more? Where would you start? How about with the town regulations. If the town doesn’t follow its own rules, how can they impose them on anyone else? Shouldn’t they lead by example? Or is it the classic case of “do as I say, not as I do”? As one member of the Planning and Environmental Commission said, if the town can spend all this money to hire consultants to circumvent the rules, shouldn’t every body else be given the same opportunity?As was also pointed out, perhaps the original developer of the Vista Bahn Building would have preferred to hire a consultant to plead their case than actually pay the $550,000 for parking requirements – a fact that played no small part in their having to sell the building. And of course, this whole approach only makes sense if we’re going to limit conference center bookings to periods when the town isn’t already busy. Nobody, even the consultants, will argue that if more than one big event is going on, we’ll be out of parking.But let’s explore that concept for a moment longer anyway. There was a rather artful attempt to further explain that events would have to be managed to ensure that there would not be more than one of any size going on at any one time. “Someone” would have to explain to the Vail Recreation District that they couldn’t book Dobson at the same time there was an event at the conference center or on the same night as Bravo.So let’s see exactly how that would work. Competing “for profit” organizations would voluntarily turn business away because there isn’t enough parking? And who’d get first dibs? But, “Oh!” they said. “We’ll park on the Frontage Road.” Don’t ya love it! All dressed up for a concert or dinner or whatever, trudging down the Frontage Road simply because we don’t have enough sense to require parking when we have a chance to? And it’s the town of Vail itself that’s looking for ways around its own regulations. While we’re on the Frontage Road, since when do we have the right to plan to use it as a parking lot? I’m pretty sure that CDOT only agrees to let us park overflow there in emergencies. I wonder how they would feel if they knew that the Frontage Road is now officially a part of the town parking plan.There’s more. A large event (1,000) will require an estimated 80 staff – another number that Planning and Environmental Commission thinks is too low. As we all know, everyone drives when they can. It’s possible that most of the designated parking will be used up by the employees. They’ve also used the assumption that because the Lionshead structure has light use now, that will always be the case. I’d guess that with all of the new development, parking will start to become a premium down there, too. At least I’m pretty sure that’s the hope of the developers.I can go on. And I will. Because we haven’t even talked about what plans there are for relocating the Charter bus lot vehicles (the Charter bus lot is where the conference center will be located if built). Or employee housing needs. Or the requirements made by the fire department that the town intends to appeal, keeping in mind their dual role as both applicant and town.There are a whole raft of regulations that I think should be deep sixed. But until they’re changed, the town has no choice but to live by its own rules. And doesn’t it smack of “special privilege” if they don’t? What am I missing?But that’s just my opinion. I think you should share yours with your elected officials. 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. This column, as in the case of all personal columns, does not necessarily reflect the views of the Vail Daily.Vail, Colorado


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