Vail wants to get serious about parking
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Earlier this month, the town of Vail told Vail Resorts to contribute to the costs of upgrading the Vail parking structures – a proposal that the town of Vail wants to negotiate with Vail Resorts by next August.
The Vail Town Council is getting fed up with the town’s never-ending parking shortages, and members have said Vail Resorts needs to step up as a partner to fix the problem.
The subject has come up time and time again in recent meetings, and the town’s recent community survey also showed that parking is a top concern for local residents.
“Our hope is to get together with Vail Resorts to try to find common ground to build parking in the near term,” said Mayor Dick Cleveland.
The town and Vail Resorts Development Co. have a recent history of not being able to find that common ground, though. Both sides say relations have improved, though, since the Arrabelle employee housing fiasco. Vail Resorts’ construction of the employee housing requirement for that project is just being constructed now, close to three years after the Arrabelle opened, which has not sat well with Vail Town Council members.
An Aug. 31 special meeting in which the Vail Town Council initiated a deal that would release a skier drop-off parking easement on that employee housing project, known as First Chair, in exchange for $725,000 from Vail Resorts, also got heated as both sides seemed wary of the other’s intentions.
The new proposal asking Vail Resorts to step up as a partner on parking comes in the midst of Vail Resorts’ Ever Vail application, which includes plans to build at least 400 public parking spaces. The spaces are not required by the project, however Vail Resorts has agreed to pay for building them, said Vail Resorts spokeswoman Kristin Kenney Williams.
“We are in constant communication with the town regarding parking management as it pertains to the winter season. We recognize that the town has stated their intent to find parking solutions that take cars off the South Frontage Road. The Lionshead Master Plan calls for Ever Vail to accommodate 400 parking spaces to alleviate Frontage Road parking and to serve the proposed new gondola, and we’ve agreed to not only accommodate them but pay for them and build them in Ever Vail,” Williams said.
Ever Vail looms on the horizon
The town’s new parking proposal is completely separate from Ever Vail, Cleveland said.
“We don’t think Ever Vail is short-term enough to address the problem in a reasonable time frame,” Cleveland said.
Ever Vail is expected to reach the Vail Town Council later this year or early next year, and could take as long as 15 years to build completely.
Council members have said that if Vail Resorts can help with parking now, they’d consider applying that parking toward the Ever Vail parking requirements.
The town of Vail is facing a deadline from the Colorado Department of Transportation later this month in which the town must present a proposal outlining its long-term parking plans.
Councilman Andy Daly said the town wants parking solutions in place by the town’s 50th anniversary in 2012 or at least very soon after.
“Parking is the highest priority issue for residents and property owners, and we want to address that,” Daly said.
Daly said the town’s proposal is simply asking Vail Resorts to sit down and help develop a strategic parking plan and ways to pay for it. The two groups will also need to figure out who pays what.
Jim Lamont, executive director of the Vail Homeowners’ Association, said until Ever Vail is dealt with, there won’t be a trusting relationship between the town and Vail Resorts Development Co.
“By pressing Vail Resorts to do something with the existing (parking) structures seems to add another layer of complexity to Ever Vail situation,” Lamont said. “Because Vail Resorts claims the Ever Vail parking will resolve all those issues.”
Lamont sees the town’s proposal as a complex negotiation with many potential factors getting in the way, especially Ever Vail.
“(The town) wants to get a bigger inventory of public parking, and they want Vail Resorts to pay for it,” Lamont said. “I don’t see that happening – not unless Ever Vail is approved.”
Williams said she can’t speculate on how the negotiations will go “until the council has the Ever Vail application before them” – proving the two groups are already on different pages if the town sees the proposal as completely separate of Ever Vail.
Cleveland said there’s a natural competition between the two entities who both happen to share many of the same goals, however the town answers to taxpayers and the company answers to stockholders.
“I think it’s appropriate for there to be a tension between the (Vail Resorts) development arm and the governing body (the town of Vail),” Cleveland said. “It’s a natural and necessary tension, and I’m not sure it’s bad.”
Cleveland added that the town and Vail Resorts’ mountain operations work very well together.
Williams said she thinks it’s very important that the community has confidence that the relationship is strong.
“We are working together better than ever with regard to marketing the Vail brand year-round; to maintaining and enhancing Vail Mountain; and with regard to any negotiations, they are becoming increasingly more meaningful and productive, evidenced by the First Chair special meeting which was indicative of both of us working together to enhance the guest experience and supported by a 5-2 vote,” Williams said.
Daly said the results of the Aug. 31 special meeting prove Vail Resorts is willing to work with the town on parking.
“They’re paying over $80,000 a space for nine spaces,” Daly said. “That’s a very significant contribution – I think it’s a real indication they’re anxious to work together to solve parking.”
The town should have a better idea of just how many parking spaces it needs after this winter, when Solaris, the Four Seasons and the Ritz Carlton open, resulting in new spaces that had been occupied by construction workers on those projects in recent years.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.