Vail Daily column: Has Vail lost its focus?
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report. 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.
TIF (tax increment funding) funds are collected by the town of Vail on new private construction, such as Ever Vail or a redevelopment of the Evergreen hotel/condominiums, based upon the increase in valuation that results. They are a significant source of the town of Vail’s finances for capital improvements. While TIF is collected on private projects, municipal and not-for-profit projects are not subject to TIF, so there will be no TIF generated by the Vail Valley Medical Center expansion. The planned Simba Run underpass, budgeted at $20.8 million, is already standing in line for funding. It also seems likely that TIF funding will be required for the town of Vail’s portion of the medical center expansion and possibly also for the Gore Creek cleanup. With Vail Resorts also seeking TIF rebates for the parking garage construction in its project, there may not be enough funds to cover all of these projects.
MEDICAL CENTER MASTER PLAN
The long-awaited plans for the expansion of the Vail Valley Medical Center were announced in June. The master plan envisions an expanded campus with most access via frontage road with a new frontage road roundabout to facilitate access. The plans go a long way toward addressing many of the neighborhood concerns, although several critical issues still remain, namely delivery access to the hospital and the location of the helipad. As part of the overall plan, the town of Vail may include consideration of the redevelopment of the Evergreen hotel/condominiums. There may also be a revival of plans for a new town of Vail municipal headquarters building. The Vail Homeowners Association has suggested that all access to the hospital site, including supply delivery, be from the frontage road, thereby relieving traffic congestion on West Meadow Drive and Vail Road. These are projects that the Vail Homeowners Association will be closely watching.
It’s time to refocus the vision. In a few short months, Vail will host the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. For some time, the focus of the community has been on preparing for that event, and the town of Vail has done much to spruce up the community and prepare to host the world. Once the world leaves, it will be time to focus on the future.
In many ways it appears that the future is bright. The town of Vail is once again experiencing positive economic growth with sales tax revenues exceeding pre-recession (2007) levels. Local real estate sales are on the upswing, foreclosures are at the lowest levels in years and unemployment is down but not to pre-recession levels. A recent assessment of how Vail is doing in comparison with other mountain resort communities showed that Vail has been a leader in recovery from the Great Recession but is still in need of more economic development, with the summer season being a prime candidate for improvement. Unfortunately, there is no consensus on going forward with views ranging from increased entertainment/special events to marketing fairs to focusing on quality over quantity.
At the same time, there is concern in some circles that Vail has lost focus on its premier goal of being a world-class international resort community with commensurate recreational, cultural and educational opportunities for both visitors and residents. An increasing number are asking whether Vail is trying to be all things to all customers — a premier international resort, a cultural destination, a Front Range vacation get-away and a valley-wide entertainment center — and whether resident concerns are being pushed aside by business interests who predominate consideration of key development projects. In other words, if we do not refocus and articulate a clear vision for the future, then are we in danger of losing what brought many of us here?
The town’s recently released 2014 community survey was not very meaningful or helpful as responses to many of the questions, with only a few exceptions, lacked specificity. There was a cautionary note about weakness in public engagement and collaborative decision making, which should be addressed and incorporated in any forward looking strategic plan. And there was a strong consensus to clean up Gore Creek. If anything, the lack of specificity in the survey results mean it’s even more necessary that there be leadership in determining a clear vision for Vail’s future. The Vail Homeowners Association believes that the period following the 2015 championships will be an excellent time to pause and reset priorities going forward.