Vail Valley Voices: Vail really need new transit center?
Vail, CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report for September. We publish weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town. The newsletter electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com.
The town of Vail is considering building a $6.1 million-$7 million transit and welcome center. Design options for the building include interior functions beyond those typically found in such centers.
A large community room is being considered, along with youth recreational facilities.
The cost of the building is to be financed though a bond issue repaid from a special redevelopment tax-increment financing fund.
The authorization for the bonds does not require voter approval. The bonds are to be issued prior to voting on a proposed statewide amendment, which if approved, would restrict the spending of tax-increment financing funds without voter approval and reduce the amount that could be spent.
The Homeowners Association has noted to the Town Council that because of the recession-driven sensitivity of voters to non-essential public spending, it should exercise more strenuous financial planning standards in the approval of new projects.
It was suggested that before non-essential spaces were added to the transit and welcome center, a detailed business and operation plan should be completed.
Rather than base a $7 million decision on hypothetical commitments from community groups that say they will use the facilities, a business plan with confirmable revenues from fees that cover, in part or fully, the proposed facility’s management and operating costs should first be completed.
If additional public financial subsidies are required, then they should be weighed against the specific public benefits achieved. The Town Council has requested that the business plan issues be considered by the town staff.
Eagle County Regional Airport in realignment mode: Commercial flights to the Eagle County Regional Airport are underwritten by an alliance of local businesses. The business plan for the airport is in flux because some of these businesses are changing their funding approach to better weather the recession.
New and dropped flights will decrease bookable seats by roughly 4 percent, which is on par with most other resort airports in Colorado. The decrease in service is not considered egregious.
The change is causing the Airport Authority, controlled by the Eagle County commissioners, to begin reassessing their operation approach by developing a long-term strategic plan.
The airport, according to informed sources, has ample financial resources generated by airport operations and has the flexibility to improve support services or reduce fees.
Several approaches are under consideration. A report is due out shortly that will evaluate the costs and benefits of opening an international terminal in an existing private terminal building.
Much of the future planning is dependent upon the shakeout and consolidation under way in the foreign and domestic commercial airline industry that services the United States. A troubled major airline in Mexico could affect travel to Vail from its largest market of international visitors. Charter flights, considered a higher risk by some in the industry, may take the place of some regularly scheduled flights. Officials are also looking to expand regularly scheduled service by attracting low-cost carriers.
Vail recreation paths see increased use and conflict: The success of Vail’s summer marketing program is having unintended consequences for the community’s extensive network of recreational paths.
There is a marked increase in bicycle riders, most notably families with small children. The conflict between fast-riding advanced bikers and pedestrians is an increasing problem as well.
An e-mail skirmish between some residential owners in the Intermountain Subdivision in West Vail and the Town Council about recreation path safety is working its way through Town Hall. The town has narrowed a wider path along the busy South Frontage by adding another path on the opposite side of the road so that bikers will not have to ride against traffic.
The configuration suits bikers, says the mayor, but neighbors say that it endangers pedestrians forced onto a narrow path. The solution, widening the recreation path, will be expensive — thus the resistance from members of the Town Council.
he Homeowners Association has suggested to town officials that the recreation path’s bike-pedestrian conflict needs to be addressed and funding considered. It has requested that a comprehensive improvement and regulatory plan be prepared.
Some have suggested that recreation paths need to be rated, similar to ski runs, so that users know in advance what to expect in terms of difficulty and hazards.