Vail Town Council informal discussion covers topics from protocol to the ski company | VailDaily.com

Vail Town Council informal discussion covers topics from protocol to the ski company

The West Vail Mall — shown here in a photo from November, 2017 — is for sale. Town officials say that lends some urgency to creating a new master plan for the West Vail area.

VAIL — The Vail Town Council gets together a couple of times a year for informal discussions about a little bit of everything.

The most recent council retreat was held the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 9. The meeting was open to the press and public, and was recorded, but not on video.

Working with Town Manager Greg Clifton and facilitator Karah Mololey, of the Vail Centre, council members spent the morning talking about subjects ranging from meeting protocol to the town's relationship with Vail Resorts.

Council members also talked at length about things they'd like to finish, or at least see well-begun, in the next couple of years.

Near the top of the list for that period is work on a handful of plans and projects.

There's been talk for some time about reprising the Vail Tomorrow meetings of the mid-1990s. That process, which took a couple of years, was an offshoot of an agreement with Vail Resorts about managing growth on Vail Mountain. The resort company partially funded the effort.

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What Vail Tomorrow did was point the town toward a number of projects. More important, people who hadn't been involved in the town's government got their first experience with the municipal government.

Council member Greg Moffet recalled that former council member Farrow Hitt started his involvement via Vail Tomorrow. In a phone conversation after the meeting, town communications director Suzanne Silverthorn noted that current State Sen. Kerry Donovan was also involved when she was a high school student. Council member Kim Langmaid and Mayor Dave Chapin said their first experiences with local government also came via the Vail Tomorrow meetings.

Involvement needed

Public involvement will be needed to build a town plan for its "civic spaces" — town-owned property and how it can best be used by residents and guests.

Having a civic spaces plan in hand will be critical if the town intends to take advantage of the remaining 12 years of the Vail Reinvestment Authority. That entity — it's the Town Council, serving as the authority board — was created as a way to use what's called "tax increment financing" for the renovation of Lionshead Village.

That kind of financing provides new tax revenues to specific districts to help fund redevelopment. Counties and school districts collect the same amount of taxes generated before the redevelopment, but the increases go to the renewal districts.

Vail's urban renewal district goes away in 2030, and the town can issue bonds against roughly $30 million in project revenue before that date. About $11 million of the total will be taken in repayment and other costs.

As 2030 approaches, the available pool of money decreases.

"We have time, but the clock is ticking," Clifton said.

A self-imposed clock is ticking on creating a master plan for West Vail area. That area, from roughly Ace Hardware to Christy Sports, is the next redevelopment opportunity in town. The West Vail Mall is currently for sale.

A town plan could guide potential redevelopment in those areas.

Moffet said it's long past time to create that plan.

"It's been a source of frustration for a generation," he said.

Council member Kevin Foley said it's essential to involve the public in those and other projects.

"How do we continue to raise the bar and do it in a way that's environmentally sensitive?" he said.

From wheel to cog

The clock is also ticking on the west half of the Timber Ridge project. Those apartments have been refreshed in the past few years but will need to be replaced in the foreseeable future.

That's a project that could take a few years, and Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther said, "Starting sooner than later is beneficial."

Officials also talked about the evolution of the town's relationship with Vail Resorts.

Chapin said the town and resort company are partners. But, he added, the relationship often feels like a one-way street.

"I sometimes think they question what we do, but when we question them, it's different," Chapin said.

Moffet noted that the company used to have its headquarters in the valley. As the company has grown, the town has become a less-important part of Vail Resorts' big picture.

"We're just a cog in the wheel now," Moffet said. "We used to be the wheel."

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