Vail Resorts-town relations on the mend
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” At a meeting between Vail Resorts and town of Vail, Colorado officials Tuesday night, pins clashed ” not tempers.
Vail Town Council members and Vail Resorts representatives, including CEO Rob Katz and Vail Resorts Development Co. President Keith Fernandez, had a relaxed night of bowling at Eagle’s Back Bowl as a way to improve a relationship that, at times, has been strained over the past year and a half.
The town and the resort have been at odds over everything from worker housing requirements to redeveloping Timber Ridge. However, representatives from both sides now say they feel that animosity is behind them and that the town and the resort are ready to work together.
“I’m hoping we can rebuild the trust between the two organizations, so that when we disagree, it’s not personal,” said Vail Mayor Dick Cleveland. “There have been lots of concerns about the relationship, but our goal is to get on the same page.”
Vail Councilwoman Margaret Rogers said the relationship was probably at one of its worse points when she came onto the council about a year ago. At that point, Vail Resorts’ Arrabelle at Vail Square was completed, and the town and the company clashed over VR’s requirement to build 120 worker beds for the project. The town debated whether to allow the Arrabelle to open in time for Christmas without the requirements fulfilled.
After some contentious sparring over the promised worker housing, the town and the resort reached an agreement that the Arrabelle could open if Vail Resorts could come up with a plan for housing within a few months.
Around the same time, the town also expressed disappointment in several proposals from Vail Resorts regarding redevelopment of Timber Ridge, the town-owned employee housing complex.
Eventually, Vail Resorts agreed to build the worker housing on the North Day Lot, a Vail Resorts-owned parking lot near the Landmark Condominiums.
The negotiations took a positive turn with the North Day Lot agreement, said Kristin Williams, a spokeswoman for Vail Resorts.
“At the staff level, the North Day Lot process showed what we can achieve when we work together,” Williams said.
“The North Day Lot was the result in a change of attitude on both sides,” Rogers said. “Before, no one approached those negotiations with conscious effort to make it a more workable relationship.”
Some said that the relationship took a negative turn when Vail Resorts moved its corporate offices from Vail to Broomfield.
“Before, everyone from the workers on the mountain to the people making the decisions all lived in town ” you saw them in the grocery store,” Cleveland said. “It’s much more difficult not to make respectful decisions when you live in the community. Now it’s just a whole different world.”
However, Vail Resorts said that reconnecting with the community is a top priority. Some from Vail Resorts and the development company now live in the Vail area, showing that the company is invested in the Vail community, Williams said.
Both sides said they are positive about the future of the town and the resort, especially as Vail Resorts begins the review process for Ever Vail, a proposed ski village in west Lionshead.
At a presentation of the project to town boards last week, Town Council members listened to the plans and asked the company’s developers tough questions about the project’s housing and parking impacts.
Still, Vail Resorts Director of Development Tom Miller said he thought the presentation went very well.
“(Tuesday’s Ever Vail) meeting had a positive tone. We could have never had that discussion a year ago,” he said.
Vail Resorts will present the same plans to citizens at an open house today.
“As a company, you’ll be seeing us do more community outreach than ever to make sure we’re answering all questions and receiving as much input as possible,” Williams said. “We really do look at this as a project for all of us.”
Rogers said that she felt the company was being “open and straightforward” about its plans, and Cleveland said the town was upfront about its concerns and expectations.
Rogers said she is optimistic both sides can work through the review process.
“The town of Vail needs Vail Resorts, and Vail Resorts needs the town of Vail,” she said. “Overall, we’re really heading in the same direction.”
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.