Finding a place for middle management

Vail Town Council candidate questionnaire - Dick Cleveland

Daily Staff Report
October 23, 2005

1. Why are you running for Vail Town Council?

Four years ago I wanted to be part of the solution to the problems facing the Town of Vail. Two of those issues, Donovan Pavilion and the Vail Center, were issues as divisive as Crossroads and the conference center are today. Sept. 11 had just occurred and the local economy was in a slump. During the last four years the council has actively addressed those and other issues. Donovan Pavilion was built and Vail's Renaissance has commenced. The conference center remains unresolved pending the election outcome. I would like the opportunity to see current projects through to completion.

2. What are the biggest issues facing Vail right now?

The primary issue is managing the unprecedented growth and redevelopment that the private sector has shown a willingness to bring to our town. Vail's Renaissance, originally proposed at over a billion dollars in redevelopment activity, has actually grown well beyond that. A master plan for the West Vail commercial area is under way and is critical to our successful redevelopment. The West Vail fire station must be built and we need to find the revenue to staff it. Timber Ridge needs to be redeveloped in the near future. The voters' decision on the Conference Center will guide our actions there.

3. What are Vail's greatest strengths and weaknesses?

Our greatest weakness is our inability to provide sufficient affordable housing to bring the working locals back to town to live, especially our middle management people and their families. People want the "American dream" and the economics of Vail's real estate market works against that.

Our greatest strength is our ability to face adversity and overcome challenges. Following the tragedy of Sept. 11, the council made significant budget cuts without sacrificing service. We weathered an economic downturn and had the foresight to plan Vail's public infrastructure improvements while encouraging private developers to make similar investments in their properties.

4. What is your position on the proposed Conference Center? Why?

Although I would love to see a conference center in Vail, I don't believe that the current proposal is economically viable. Between 2003 and 2005 the projected construction cost of the building ballooned from $35-$40 million, then $50-$57 million, finally landing at $64 million. Because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, material costs are rising. Cost overruns should be expected.

Proponents estimate annual operating losses of $900,000 to $1.2 million. I am concerned that these numbers are based on overly optimistic revenue projections. Operating deficits will likely be higher. I question the risk the Vail taxpayer is asked to shoulder.

5. The planning commission unanimously endorsed a plan for redevelopment of the Crossroads complex in Vail Village earlier this year. Do you support that plan, and, if not, what specific changes would have to be made to this plan to make it acceptable?

I support the redevelopment of Crossroads but did not support the proposed plan. My primary objection was the amount of gross residential floor area (GRFA) allotted to for-sale condominiums. The proposed GRFA was more then four times that allowed by underlying zoning. As a result of this deviation, the building height at the East Meadow Drive plaza was over 113 feet (11 stories). That would be 50 feet taller than Crossroads' new neighbor across Meadow Drive. The proposal was out of character with the neighborhood and would negatively impact the fabric of Vail Village. A reasonable reduction in GRFA would have adequately reduced the building height.

6. Redevelopment is under way in Vail Village and Lionshead, and major redevelopment is planned in West Vail and West Lionshead. How would you seek to influence this development?

I would stay the course that the current council has followed for the past four years. We began the renewal, Vail's Renaissance, by implementing the Vail Village and East Meadow Drive streetscape projects on public property. Other private developers have since brought their projects in for redevelopment. We must continue to make our redevelopment as invisible as possible to our visitors and businesses. The preservation of our natural environment must be given equal consideration to our economic development. Mother Nature is what brought all of us here and she will continue to bring our guests if we protect her.

7. This year's community survey shows residents said parking is the top issue facing the town. How would you deal with this issue?

The primary parking complaint concerned construction workers using the Village structure. The council has initiated a new plan to relocate construction-related parking from the Village to the Lionshead structure where there is adequate space Monday through Thursday. As requested, additional pay stations have been installed. Winter parking mitigation plans should be required of all future development projects. The council negotiated a $4.3 million dollar payment from Vail Resorts to build additional public parking. If the Conference Center is approved, this additional parking will be added to the Lionshead Structure. These parking funds remain available should the vote fail.

8. Does Vail need to be more welcoming to middle-class families? If yes, how?

Absolutely! To that end the Town Council (since 2003) annually allocates $100,000 for an affordable housing buy-down program. Unused money from that fund is rolled forward year to year. The town recently contributed to the Eagle County Down Payment Assistance Fund and the town assists its own employees with low-cost loans. The Town Council purchased the Hud Wirth property in West Vail and is currently master planning the site to include for-sale affordable housing. I believe the target market for any new housing should be middle management and their families.

9. Ask and answer your own question that will help voters decide how to vote.

Has the current Vail Town Council done enough to encourage Vail's economic rebirth? If not, how would you improve upon what has been done in the past?

The current council has done an outstanding job of leading Vail's Renaissance. In the public sector, we took an active role in refining and implementing the streetscape master plans for both Vail Village and East Meadow Drive. We built Donovan Pavilion, the Whitewater Park, expanded the capacity of Dobson Arena and purchased Timber Ridge. This council has approved many private development projects. A partial list includes: Arabelle, Four Seasons (special development district), Vail Plaza Hotel SDD, Tivoli Lodge SDD, Vail Gateway SDD, Manor Vail SDD, the Gore Creek Town Homes, "The Ruins" SDD, the Front Door Project re-zoning, and Middle Creek.

Vail, Colorado