Vail: Parking pits town against resort
August 23, 2008
VAIL, Colo. ” If you don’t allow the Lionshead parking structure, we won’t approve Ever Vail.
That’s what the town of Vail said Friday in trying to compel the ski company to allow the $900 million Lionshead parking garage renovation to proceed.
Approval of Ever Vail ” a separate, $1 billion project Vail Resorts planned for West Lionshead ” will be contingent of the company lifting the “deed restriction” it holds on the Lionshead garage land, Town Manager Stan Zemler said in a letter to Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz.
“It’s very obvious to me and everybody that we can play nice or we cannot play nice,” said Town Councilman Mark Gordon. “It’s much better that everyone plays nice and we all get the benefits.”
The Lionshead project would replace the current parking structure with condos, timeshares, a conference center, stores, restaurants, a transit center and public parking. The project, which would be built on town-owned land, is being proposed by Open Hospitality Partners/Hillwood Capital, a Texas development group that includes Ross Perot Jr., the son of the former presidential candidate.
Town Council members have been enthusiastic about the project, which they say includes significant public benefits.
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But Vail Resorts holds a deed restriction on the property because it donated the land to the town. It must lift that deed restriction for the project to happen.
Katz said he wouldn’t lift the deed restriction until the planned parking garage at Ever Vail is completed. That would be November 2011 at the earliest.
Vail Resorts officials say they are worried about two things when it comes to the Lionshead parking structure proposal: maintaining enough parking during construction and he financial soundness of the developer.
Vail Resorts declined comment on the letter Friday, saying it hadn’t had enough time to evaluate it. But Katz said earlier in the week that the company’s requirements would not change.
“This is not a negotiation for us,” Katz said then. “This is a piece of land that was donated by the company to the town for parking. We’re very supportive of the long-term goals that the Town Council has put forward, but we’re not willing to risk the parking for our ski resort.”
The Friday letter says Ever Vail doesn’t provide enough public parking, transit facilities, or skier drop-off areas. Because of that, the company must lift the deed restriction for the Lionshead project, which the town says has public benefits, for Ever Vail to proceed, the letter says.
“Vail Resorts’ refusal to immediately remove the deed restriction risks the loss of items of incredible public benefit contained in the OHP (Open Hospitality Partners/Hillwood Capital) development proposal, including expanded public parking, a conference center and a regional transit center, all of which will be constructed by OHP at OHP’s sole cost,” the letter said. “The town therefore asks that you immediately remove the deed restriction.”
The letter say the lifting of the Lionshead deed restriction must be tied to the “subdivision improvement agreement,” which is needed for Ever Vail to start.
Zemler tells Katz that the company’s terms are “not acceptable.”
“While the intent of the deed restriction was to provide public parking, and did in fact provide for public parking for many years, it appears that the deed restriction is now being used to prevent any redevelopment of the site,” the letter says. “As such, the deed restriction is frustrating the very purpose for which the land was originally conveyed.”
The Vail Town Council on Tuesday extended a deadline for the lifting the deed restriction to March 17.
Ever Vail, a “green” ski village, would be centered around a new six-person gondola that runs to Vail Mountain and would include a hotel, condos, timeshares, stores, restaurants and parking garages. Vail Resorts officials say Ever Vail could start as soon as spring 2009 with the realignment of the frontage road.
Gordon admitted there is tension between Vail and Vail Resorts.
“But I am committed to trying to ease that tension,” he said.