Vail Valley Voices: Retail sales gain ground
Vail, CO Colorado
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report in May. We plan to publish weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside the town. The newsletter’s electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com.
A cautionary TIF tale: The town of Vail is becoming more reliant upon tax increment financing to fund capital projects in the Lionshead redevelopment urban renewal district. TIF-generated revenues come from the increase in property tax valuation resulting from new construction. The town is building $15 million in transportation and related improvements financed by bonds repaid by TIF-generated property taxes. In a cautionary TIF report from California, there are several TIF-funded renewal authorities that aggressively financed redevelopment projects during the boom that are now facing financial crisis because of a precipitous recession-related decline in property taxes. The Homeowners Association was successful last fall in urging the town to reduce the amount of its Lionshead TIF-related expenditures; the association continues its advocacy of restraint.
Sales tax revenue is up: Vail’s monthly sales tax receipts for the winter season through February are outpacing other Colorado mountain resorts with an 8.98 percent average increase as compared to Aspen’s 5.32 percent. Anecdotal reports are that Vail’s luxury goods business did much better than Aspen’s over the winter season. The town is reporting all categories of businesses in all locations throughout Vail have increased over the prior year during the winter season. Sales tax estimates for March are up 16.8 percent from last year. For the current ski season, November through March, they are up 12.3 percent. March revenues from the Lift Ticket Tax are up 11.5 percent from March 2010 and up 11.7 percent for the ski season.
Lodging revenues increased: Sales tax revenues from lodging increased 9.5 percent in February. MTRIP reports through February average occupancy year over year was down 0.6 percent while average daily room rate increased by 3.3 percent to $425.-
Public parking revenues down: Daily sales at the end of March from the town’s two parking structures are down 5.65 percent with non-pass transactions up 1.2 percent from the prior season. Sales from discounted season parking passes are down 5.8 percent. The designated free skier parking zone on the North Frontage Road at the West Vail commercial center was largely filled every day through the entire ski season. The town, wanting to be sensitive to economic conditions, expanded the “locals only” value card to all Eagle County residents, which mushroomed sales. The number of days that the South Frontage Road was used for overflow parking in Vail Village and Lionshead was one of the lowest on record.
Town, Vail Resorts spar over long-term public parking
Some members of the Vail Town Council are not satisfied with Vail Resorts’ strategy to respond to the long-term public parking needs of the community. According to town parking studies, there will be a shortfall of 1,000 parking spaces in coming years.
These numbers are in addition to the publically available parking spaces to be provided in the proposed Ever Vail portal in West Lionshead. The Town Council has inferred, if Vail Resorts does not become a partner in solving the long-term need, then they will discuss in August rescinding their permission to allow 15 days of overflow parking on the Frontage Roads.
There are those questioning whether Vail Resorts is vulnerable to a shutdown of Frontage Road parking as the demand for overflow parking has dropped significantly this ski season. They say it is the town of Vail that has been furthering the practice of Frontage Road parking by allowing “free” parking in West Vail and offering parking pass discounts on the North Frontage Road at Middle Creek. There are those that see the drop in the demand for the town-owned public parking as an indication that its projections are no longer accurate. This may be caused by the availability of new private sector public parking that has transferred demand away from the town’s parking structures.
The Town Council has rejected within the past year a proposal to build a 1,000-vehicle parking structure under the athletic fields on Ford Park. They have also rejected making road-widening improvements that would expand parking opportunities along the frontage roads. Other than expanding existing parking structures in Vail Village and Lionshead or adding more parking at the Ever Vail portal, there are few options to expand town of Vail-owned public parking within the town limits. A Vail Resorts representative suggests that if Ever Vail is not approved as it is generally configured currently, the company may move its investment capital to its Tahoe resorts.