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VR plays its cards perfectly

Kaye Ferry

Let’s see. How many cliches apply? The worm has turned. The cat is out of the bag. The shoe is on the other foot. The ball is in your court.Take your pick, because any will do.At last week’s Vail Town Council meeting, the big guys, the elephant in the middle of the room, the “evil empire,” finally weighed in on the Lionshead parking structure.Before I go another step, I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not think they’re really the “evil empire.” It’s just a tongue-in-cheek reference to the thousand-pound gorilla this community loves to hate.But I don’t always like what they do. Neither do I always know what they’ll do. But they do. That’s why we always get caught with our pants down.So what did they say? Well, you had to know what they were saying, to know what they were saying. It was quite comical. I have to give it to them. They play poker and all but stack the deck. Or maybe they do stack the deck – let me think about that.As I started to say, you’ve got to love them because they are so good that all you can do is sit back and grin. But I guess that all depends on who you are and what side you’re on. Let me explain.The two developers (were there ever more?) that are in the running for the Lionshead parking structure contract made what was billed as their final proposals before a scheduled Dec. 5 decision.Now, I won’t go into my opinion about that again now, even though I will before it’s over. What’s important is that these guys, who have probably dropped half a million just in this proposal process, thought they were in the home stretch. Make their presentation. Sell their proposal. Answer a few questions. Pledge some benefits. And sit back, waving their arms, saying “Pick me!” “Pick me!”When up to the podium came Vail Resorts in the form of their mountain division co-president, Bill Jensen. And he was great.”On behalf of Vail Resorts and in support of the Lionshead merchants, there cannot be even one-half of a percent error on this parking issue.” Blank looks from the other side of the table.”Neither the merchants nor VRI can take even a small risk with parking.” Huh?”The town, VRI and the developer have to work closely to ensure adequate parking during this transition.” Can you explain that?”We all have to be committed to making sure that Lionshead is not without adequate parking at any time.” Any suggestions?”Working together to solve the problem is mandatory. And by the way, Ford Park is not the answer.” “So what are you saying, Mr. Jensen?” asked Councilman Kent Logan.It was a work of art. I haven’t seen that kind of tap dancing in a public forum since President Clinton suggested we ponder the definition of “is.””So are you trying to say that if we want to proceed with the LionsHead project we’d better get busy on the West Lionshead approvals?” “That might be a good place to start.”So, one depends on the other?”That could be one way of looking at it.”It was a fun to watch. But more importantly, it made things crystal clear. There’s only one group in charge here.Just in case you aren’t familiar with the history of the site, VRI donated that land to the town with covenants, which only they can lift. Any use other than parking has to be approved by them.But I’ve really been curious why they have stayed silent so long on this topic. One reason is that they’ve not been pressed for an answer. One would wonder why. But now that we’re theoretically getting down to the wire, they came forward on their own.Was this their plan all along? To lay low while the powers that be got themselves worked into a frenzy over their wish list for what has only recently surfaced as a parking garage that is about to crumble around our guests’ feet if not demolished toute suite?And why do I say recently? Because we just finished a two-and-a-half year study on the defeated conference center, which only planned on adding to the current structure, never taking it down. What could have evolved of such a critical nature in six months that would require the wrecking ball as the only solution? But back to the big guys. They laid it out, pure and simple, without really saying it.You guys want the Lionshead parking structure to move forward. But we (VRI) control that deal. We want the West Lionshead project to move forward. But you control that process. If you want one, we’d better get the other. Soon.It’s not complicated. The town should have seen this coming long before last Tuesday. But they’re so busy pushing their agenda that they forgot that Vail Resorts has their own. And it’s one they’ll have to deal with if they want to move forward.So good for Vail Resorts. You can’t help but applaud a well-orchestrated move. And did I say they were good at poker? Maybe bridge is really their game. So when you play with them, count your cards and count them again, because they always seem to have the last trump.Lest we really go out on a limb, the idea that’s been circulating of condemning the structure if Vail Resorts doesn’t play nice is nothing short of suicide. Surely no one can be that naive. Or think they have deep enough pockets.Then there’s the appraisal. Apparently there is one. But the town’s “negotiating” it. How do you negotiate an appraisal?Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail towncouncil@vailgov.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail vailinfo@vailresorts.com. For past columns, go to vaildaily.com and click on “Commentary” or search for keyword “ferry.” Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily. Vail Daily, Vail Colorado CO


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