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Vail focuses on building requirements

Lauren Glendenning
lglendenning@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –Vail Resorts and Vail town officials agree that delays in building employee housing, like what happened with the Arrabelle project, cannot happen again in the future.

Vail Resorts is breaking ground on its 124-bed employee housing project at the North Day lot this spring, about four years later than the original agreement between the company and the town stated. The town required Vail Resorts Development Company to provide 120 beds of employee housing before the Arrabelle could get its certificate of occupancy, which it got in late 2007.

Negotiations along the way presented several obstacles to the timeline – the town was at one point interested in the company fulfilling the employee housing requirement through a Timber Ridge redevelopment, which never panned out. There was also time and money spent on designing a transportation center at the North Day lot, which also never materialized.

“A look at the transit center (at the North Day lot) took a lot of time; the look at Timber Ridge took a lot of time,” said Vail Resorts spokeswoman Kristin Williams on why the employee housing groundbreaking is happening later than scheduled. “Vail Resorts is totally behind the idea now that you don’t get a (certificate of occupancy) until you meeting parking and housing requirements.”

Some Vail Town Council members are making sure the company is behind that notion because there’s isn’t any choice now, they say. Mayor Dick Cleveland said the community has seen what has gone on with the North Day lot and the delay in fulfilling Arrabelle’s housing requirement and “will not stand for it.”

That’s why Cleveland said at last Tuesday’s Ever Vail presentation to the town that he’s going “to be really sticky” with Vail Resorts on its phasing plans.

“I will want phasing that gives us at least a significant portion of public benefits up front,” Cleveland said.

Williams said the town is absolutely right to be focused on the phasing of the project – Vail Resorts recognizes that if the project were to shut down after any phase that the town needs to be comfortable with the way it looks.

That being said, Vail Resorts Chief Executive Officer Rob Katz said the company has never walked away from any of the projects it has started in its history.

As Vail Town Council members talked about Ever Vail’s parking at last Tuesday’s meeting – about whether Vail Resorts’ public parking would end up competing with the town’s parking structures – kinks in the relationship between the two surfaced.

“There is a tension here – let’s not kid ourselves,” Katz said.

Katz went on to say that the town and his company were likely on the same page in terms of keeping an equilibrium of parking prices.

“I think we should assume the price of parking will go down (when Ever Vail parking opens),” Katz said.

The town and the company were also on the same page around 2000, when the town and Vail Resorts collaborated on the Lionshead Master Plan, the document that guided the Arrabelle’s design, said Vail Town Manager Stan Zemler.

Lionshead was in decline and needed redevelopment, and Vail Resorts stepped up as the redevelopers.

Years later, after the project approvals happened and construction was complete, the town chose to issue the certificate of occupancy even though the housing requirement wasn’t fulfilled yet, Zemler said.

“We could have not allowed the Arrabelle to open,” Zemler said. “The decision was made to let them occupy for some obvious reasons.”

If the town decided to put the Arrabelle on hold because of the requirement, the redevelopment project would have been paralyzed, contradicting all of the work put into the project and into reviving Lionshead.

The town did require Vail Resorts to put up a letter of credit for about $18 million, which Zemler said is now worth about $21 million, to cover what 120 employee housing beds would cost – money the town could cash in on if the company fails to meet its most recent obligation to break ground this spring.

The town learned its lesson, Zemler said. While the goal of the master plan and to revitalize Lionshead worked, town officials learned they need to be more strict on the requirements for future applications.

Zemler isn’t worried about Vail Resorts not meeting requirements again because of the town’s regulations. If Ever Vail is approved, Vail Resorts will have to deliver on time, he said.

“We do everything in our power to make sure developers fulfill their commitments,” Zemler said. “We have the ability, as we move through the review of this process, to create a circumstance where the obligation has to be met.”

Williams said the change that came out of the Arrabelle negotiations and tensions are only for the better. The town and the company are back on track, she said.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com.


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