Vail considers asking voters for increase in lift-ticket tax to pay for parking
By the numbers
$4.7 million: 2015 revenue from the town of Vail’s lift ticket tax.
350: Employees at The Lion construction site.
130: Parking spaces at Vail Valley Medical Center lost to construction.
30: Recently added parking spots for Vail Resorts employees.
VAIL — Parking will probably be tough at the Lionshead Village parking structure for the remainder of the summer. But parking woes that seem to have become a summer and winter problem may lead to a fall tax increase request for Vail voters.
Vail Town Council member Dick Cleveland, a longtime advocate of building more parking in town, suggested on Tuesday that it’s time to put money into boosting the town’s parking inventory.
During a brief discussion about parking, Cleveland asked for, and received, support from fellow council members to ask Town Attorney Matt Mire to research a possible ordinance that would double the current 4 percent lift ticket tax, then put that money toward parking.
The council has until early September to submit a question to the county’s November ballot.
Cleveland said the town should look first at adding parking to the east end of the Lionshead Village parking structure. More important, he said, is that a tax increase might get the attention of Vail Resorts.
“The only way we’re going to get (help from the resort company) is to force them,” Cleveland said.
The current 4 percent lift tax generated $4.7 million in 2015, roughly 7 percent of the town’s revenue for the year. The tax is a combination of walk-up lift ticket sales and negotiations with Vail Resorts about how many pass holders come to Vail during a season.
Current lift tax revenue goes into the town’s general fund and is used for all town operations, from the bus system to the fire department to the public library.
Submitting a tax increase proposal to the county would require the council to pass an ordinance on two readings. That would give the council only a few weeks to act.
It takes time
If a tax increase is eventually proposed and passed, it will take some time to add new parking to the town’s stock. That won’t help this summer.
During a longer presentation about summer parking by Town Manager Stan Zemler, it became clear there are few answers to this summer’s problems at Lionshead Village parking structure, which fills up by 11 a.m. or so, most weekdays.
Zemler told the council that he and other town officials have been talking with employers and construction companies about the strain on the parking structure.
Zemler told the council that he investigated whether or not to close the structure in the fairly early morning — perhaps between 8 and 10 a.m.
“That creates more problems,” Zemler said. “It just doesn’t seem like a great idea, as much as we’d like to find some relief.”
It’s Not an occasional problem
Greg Hall, director of the department of Vail Public Works, said that the structure has been filling later in the morning, but that the structure is still filling regularly. The Vail Village parking structure has been getting close to filling on many weekdays, too.
With only weeks left in the peak summer tourist season, Mayor Dave Chapin said the town will be better prepared next year.
“I consider this a lesson learned,” Chapin said. Chapin, an owner of Vendetta’s restaurant in Vail Village, said he remembers well the parking crunch at Vail Village during the construction of Solaris and other big projects.
“I feel the pain of the business owner in Lionshead,” he said.
Steps to take
While Chapin said it’s probably time to “monitor” summer parking, council members aren’t yet ready to talk about the prospect of charging for parking during the warmer months.
Council member Kevin Foley, who works in Lionshead Village, said he’s heard business owners there complaining about the “lot full” signs that go up almost daily. Often, there are a few spaces to be found, but Hall said the signs aren’t turned off until at least 50 spaces open up.
Town officials will probably replace the “lot full” messages with “near capacity” in an effort to get people to at least try to find a spot in the structure.
Chapin added that it’s not just construction parking that’s filling up the structure.
“There are employees, guests, hotel guests and people (long-term) parking, too,” he said. “We’ll to everything in our power so we can address this next spring.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.