Vail hears criticism over Ever Vail dealings
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Prominent Vail resident and developer Harry Frampton wants to know why the Vail Town Council seems to be making it harder for Vail Resorts to develop its $1 billion proposed Ever Vail project – he thinks the town should be doing whatever it can, within reason, to see the project gets built.
The company has been in the town’s approval process for more than four years, spending much of that time in front of the town’s Planning and Environmental Commission.
The applications have been in the Town Council’s approval process since March 1, and there have been many contentious meetings between the town and the company since that time. The company has said that it won’t build the project until market conditions improve, acknowledging that it could take years before that happens.
Frampton, managing partner at East West Partners, told the Town Council the exactions and conditions the town is requiring of Ever Vail are “impossible.”
He went on to give the council his perspective on the deal for more than 10 minutes, at times sounding like he was lecturing them.
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Frampton said the current economic climate is not the time to be making things more difficult on a developer that wants to build a project such as Ever Vail, which Frampton said is in the best interests of the community to get built.
Jay Peterson, an attorney who worked with Vail Resorts on its Arrabelle project, said Ever Vail will complete Vail.
“It’s time to make some decisions,” Peterson said. “Everyone needs to work together and get this thing done.”
The council took an important step toward getting at least something done before four new council members, potentially two incumbents, take office next month. The council decided Tuesday to vote on the master plan amendment resolution at its Oct. 16 meeting in order to set the stage for the new council, but only after Councilwoman Kim Newbury asked to do so while the council nearly voted to continue the meeting again.
“I’m thinking, too, how difficult it may be for new people sitting up here, even if it’s someone who has previously been on council and comes back, for example,” said Newbury, who is term-limited and has just two meetings left as a council member. “I think to have the table set for them and then to bring these other (applications) in, rather than having the whole giant mass, might be easier.”
Frampton said the town needs a new approach that asks what it can do to help Vail Resorts build Ever Vail.
“The reality is if we don’t have an approach to try and create incentives for them to build it, since they’re the only company in the United States that would build it, it’ll never get built,” Frampton said.
With an economic recession that has slaughtered the development and real estate industry in recent years, Frampton said there’s no other developer in the United States that would build such a project, including himself.
“The only reason that project has any economic viability is because Vail has a larger goal for Vail Resorts and that’s to protect the assets of their mountain long-term, to bring more skiers here and to ensure Vail stays on top,” Frampton said.
With the current conditions, Frampton said that even an approval won’t mean much.
“All it means is they’ve got some entitlements they’ll sit on for five to 10 years,” he said.
Frampton pointed out Sun Valley, Idaho, as an example of what could work for Ever Vail and the town of Vail. East West Partners was hired 14 months ago to develop a master plan for the 90-acre base area at Sun Valley. The plan got unanimous approval from the Town Council there four months ago, Frampton said.
The Sun Valley entitlements are vested for 100 years, and there are almost no exactions, he said.
“They’ve put into place a whole series of incentives to do everything to encourage the ski company to build that project,” Frampton said.
And because Vail’s reputation in the financial world isn’t good – Frampton pointed out the bankruptcy at the Vail Plaza Hotel, the financial struggles the developer of the Four Seasons had – the senior lender, Barclays Capital, took ownership over that project in 2009 after the developer defaulted – as well as sales struggles at Solaris and the Ritz-Carlton. Frampton said most banks wouldn’t even talk to a developer looking to build a project in Vail.
Vail Homeowners Association Executive Director Jim Lamont called Frampton’s insight a “cold shower, but a breath of fresh air in this discussion.”
Lamont said that while no stone has been left unturned in the Ever Vail discussions over the years and the town has proved to be “tough negotiators,” he implied the town is also hypocritical – the town wouldn’t be able to finance any of the project exactions on its own that it is trying to get out of Ever Vail, Lamont said.
“We have to move on,” Lamont said. “(The community is) sick of the gridlock that we currently have, and it’s time to move on.”
Vail Resorts spokeswoman Kristin Kenney Williams said it’s nice to see everyone, especially key community leaders, recognize that “we’re all in this together.”
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.