Vail residents have questions about options for town’s civic area plan | VailDaily.com

Vail residents have questions about options for town’s civic area plan

Planners still looking for answers about several aging town facilities

The town of Vail's civic area includes Vail Public Library, Dobson Ice Arena, the Lionshead Village parking structure and town hall. Work continues on how to change that area.
Special to the Daily

Vail’s ‘civic area’

Where: The area encompasses the Vail Public Library, Dobson Ice Arena, Lionshead Parking Structure and the town hall campus.

Why a plan is needed: Town officials say a combination of aging facilities and community needs require planning future uses there.

What’s next? The Vail Town Council will receive its next update at the May 7 meeting. The plan should be finished this fall.

Go to www.engagevail.com to learn more and share your opinions.

VAIL — There are no firm answers yet for what Vail wants to see in the town’s “civic area.” There are plenty of questions.

A number of town residents on April 17 gathered in the Grand View Room atop the Lionshead Parking Structure to listen to options for the parcels of town-owned property including the Vail Public Library, Dobson Ice Arena, the Lionshead Parking Structure and town hall.

All those buildings are aging, and town officials are wondering how, or if, to upgrade or replace those facilities. The idea is to make the facilities more user-friendly and, perhaps, find ways to make the entire area more welcoming to both residents and guests.

Perhaps the biggest questions are about the ice arena and library, how to expand both the facilities at the arena, and, perhaps, create some much-needed meeting space for the town.

There’s also the long-pondered question of what to do with the property between the parking structure and ice arena that now serves as parking for charter buses and RVs.

The Vail Town council recently heard a presentation about the first options that came out of research and the opinions of residents participating on the EngageVail website.

Few answers, yet

The April 17 meeting was a chance to share that information with residents and hear more questions.

As Vail Community Development Director Matt Gennett and town engineer Tom Kassmel talked about the options so far, a number of residents had questions and suggestions.

Longtime resident Merv Lapin lives near the area being discussed. Looking over the various maps possible options, Lapin said he’s concerned about the prospect of putting more people into an already-congested area.

And, Lapin added, the prospect of congestion will increase if and when the Evergreen Lodge redevelops.

Richard Neal, another longtime resident, asked Gennett if the town facilities’ current location should be reconsidered.

“The town lives off sales tax,” Neal said. “All this land could be used for sales tax-generating functions.”

But resident Wendy Erb asked where current uses would move, if they are moved.

“We’ve talked about it, and we don’t have any firm ideas,” Gennett said. “Any use we displace, we have to find a new location (that works).”

What about town hall?

Perhaps the most uncertainty is about the town hall campus. There, one of the most complex options involves moving South Frontage Road to the north. That would link the town hall property with the rest of the area.

Options for that parcel range from fairly straightforward replacement of the 1970s-vintage town offices to more elaborate public-private partnerships that could include lodging and workforce housing.

In his comments on one option map, Lapin cautioned town officials to use caution if discussing relatively tall buildings.

Lapin has long been a critic of Vail Health’s new helicopter landing site atop its expansion.

A tall building near the flight path would further complicate takeoffs and landings, he wrote.

“Did the town not learn from the (2014) Frisco crash (and) the dangers of having a helipad in a high population area?” Lapin wrote. He added that neither the town, Vail Health nor the Federal Aviation Administration regulate those flight paths.

Whatever becomes of the civic plan, new facilities are years away, but not in the distant future.

In the early 2000s, the town established a special district to help facilitate improvements in the Lionshead area. That district is funded by what’s called “tax increment financing.” That system dedicates increased property taxes from new construction into district needs. That district is set to expire in 2030, and Gennett said the tax collections could total $40 million from now until that date. That money could be used to help fund bonds to pay for more improvements.

First, though, there are a lot of questions to answer.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.



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