What’s brewing at Lionshead?
To continue with the Lionshead parking structure redevelopment: I have a lot of questions, mostly fueled by this artificial urgency to move forward at breakneck speed. As I said before, I have never seen anything move this quickly through the typical town of Vail gantlet. That makes me very apprehensive because there has to be a reason. I just don’t know what it is yet, but I can speculate.So let’s look at it. To begin with, this appeared to come out of nowhere. But since there was one interested party, the only way to consider it was to issue a request for proposals to all interested parties. By a mysterious act of divine intervention, an RFP, which usually requires some elaborate discussion and preparation, just happened to be ready and waiting in someone’s bottom drawer. Another coincidence? You can think so if you like. But regardless, how is it that an RFP was ready to go when there had been no discussion of what anybody in the community wants on that site, including the Town Council? But that isn’t even accurate. Clearly somebody must have known what they want on that site because somebody put words on paper and defined that very thing. It just wasn’t done through any discussion with the public or most of the elected officials.So out went the request, and lo and behold, there were eight responses. And almost as quickly as there were eight there were two. Two in the final running. Another curiosity. But then think about it. This is by conservative estimates a half-billion dollar project. Who could possibly have had that ready to go on such short notice? It’s actually pretty obvious. The original guy with the idea – the one who started the whole thing – would be one. The only other possibility is anyone else who had a heads-up. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions when you analyze the two left standing. And there’s the urgency where there is none, or at least where there shouldn’t be any. Why? I have it from the source that it isn’t coming from at least one of the developers. Is it coming from the other? And if not from the developers, who then? And why? Somebody’s got a burr in their bonnet. For what reason? What’s the rush?But I haven’t even touched on the really scary part. The question was raised as to who would own the land under all of this development when it’s over, land currently owned by the town but with original covenants that go back to Vail Resorts’ ownership. As quoted in the minutes from the July 18 Town Council meeting, here is the response from the town manager: “It’s fair to assume they (the developer) would own some aspect of the property.” I won’t go there now, but rest assured, if that option is even put out for discussion, you’ll hear about it, loud and clear. I’ve already heard rumblings of another petition if the town even goes near this one. Town of Vail land is not for sale. Period. There are also rumors circulating about the $8.2 million in the conference center fund and the $4.3 million that Vail Resorts has pledged toward parking mitigation. Again, speculation is that those monies could be thrown in the pot to help the developer. Not a good idea.And of course, overshadowing this is the town of Vail “visioning” process that hasn’t even started yet. It’s the 2006 version of the 1996 Vail Tomorrow. So here we are, about to start querying the community on their vision of the future, which is happening almost at the same time as the community assessment of the Vail Recreation District and recreation needs, and we have such ants in our pants that we can’t wait to see what those results look like before we start making plans for the last big in town property available to us for anything. I know that was a long sentence, but when I think about the insanity of this, I don’t take a breath then, either. As I said last week, no matter what BS you hear, we haven’t discussed what we want; the land’s not going down in value; developers will always be eager to take on this project; and any supposed need to rush is artificial.But I said I’d keep an open mind. However, the reality is that I also expect honest and straightforward information from the other side if I’m to keep my end of the bargain. You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t think that’s been the case, because so far this process has not passed the smell test. In simple terms, it stinks. Because of my deadline, I’ll fill you in next week on the meeting with Open Hospitality Partners and Hill Capital Partnership and the Aug. 1 Town Council review of the proposals. Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail email@example.com. For past columns, go to vaildaily.com and click on “Columnists” or search for keyword “ferry.” Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.
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