Vail Resorts has veto power over garage
VAIL ” Even as the town of Vail spends thousands of dollars and holds public forums to decide whether to rebuild the town-owned Lionshead parking garage, final approval doesn’t rest in the town’s hands.
Vail Resorts has the power to veto a proposal to replace the garage with condos, hotels, a convention center, stores, restaurants and even more parking.
The ski company donated the land to the town a few decades ago, and the company retains the right to approve anything that’s not parking or a conference center.
Council members, meanwhile, are supposed to make a decision on the $600 million project next month.
So would Vail Resorts gives its stamp of approval to the project?
Vail Resorts Chief Executive Officer Rob Katz and Vail Resorts Development Company President Keith Fernandez met with the Town Council on the subject in December behind closed doors.
Fernandez did not return a phone call this week. A request for an interview with Katz was met with an e-mailed statement from a spokeswoman from the company’s mountain division.
“Vail Resorts is watching the process with interest and we recognize that with the covenant on the Lionshead parking structure, any changes require our approval,” said Jen Brown, the spokeswoman, in an e-mail. “We will wait until the process has been completed before making a decision.”
But what is the company watching for? Enough parking? Construction impacts? How do its not-yet-approved plans for a parking garage, a new chairlift and new condos in West Lionshead relate to its approval of a the Lionshead garage?
Brown said she had no further comment. Bill Jensen, co-president of the mountain division, did not immediately return a phone call.
Stan Zemler, Vail’s town manager, said the town has stayed in good communications with Vail Resorts on the subject of the Lionshead garage.
“We’ve been looking toward them as a collaborator,” Zemler said.
The town of Vail and Vail Resorts have common goals that renovating the garage would achieve, including more hotel rooms and money for road improvements, Zemler said.
“That’s good for the town, and that’s good for the mountain,” he said, adding feedback from Vail Resorts on the project has been “very positive.”
One of Vail Resorts’ main concerns is ensuring there’s enough parking while the garage is rebuilt. “Their concern, primarily, is that we don’t ultimately disrupt in an extraordinarily negative way our ability to be a wintertime resort,” Zemler said.
That includes having backup plans in case anything goes wrong, Zemler said.
The garage Vail Resorts’ wants to build in West Lionshead, which would have about 400 public parking spaces, could help ensure there’s enough parking, Zemler said.
Whether it could get built before the Lionshead is renovated remains undetermined.
Vail Resorts is also planning a new lift, condos and stores in West Lionshead.
Vail Resorts’ covenants for the Lionshead garage don’t give them a free pass in West Lionshead, Zemler said.
“I don’t believe we’re going to turn our heads the other way,” Zemler said.
Councilman Greg Moffet said he won’t vote to renovate the Lionshead garage unless the town’s getting a good deal from everyone, including Vail Resorts.
“We’ve all got things we want in this process, and that’s why it’s in negotiation, and everyone is negotiating in good faith,” he said.
Last month, Moffet questioned whether Vail Resorts, as a publicly traded company, had the long-term interests of the town in mind. This week, Moffet said the company is taking steps to restore the level of trust he has in them.
“I think we’re all aiming toward interest alignment,” he said.
The West Lionshead garage has to be open before the Lionshead garage is redeveloped, Moffet said.
Mark Gordon, another Vail councilman, said the town and the ski company’s goals are similar. The garages are two separate projects, he said.
“Should (residents) be worried that Vail Resorts is holding the town hostage?” he said. “No.”
The town could condemn the Lionsead garage to remove the protective covenants, but Gordon said that’s not likely.
“I don’t think it’s going to come to anything close to that,” Gordon said.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or email@example.com