Girvin: Time for Vail Resorts to stop the lies about transit tax (column)
August 20, 2015
Disingenuous" is a word that people use when they are trying to find a nice way to say that someone, or some entity, is lying. And to be fair, "disingenuous" is more nuanced, meaning lacking frankness, candor and sincerity; deceivingly simple. Synonyms are: deceitful, dishonest, distorted, insincere, deceptive, duplicitous and underhanded.
It is time to call out Vail Resorts, Inc. on their disingenuous claims about the proposed Breckenridge transit tax and shed some light on their disingenousnesses (I made that word up; it's a nice way of saying "lies.")
Parking structures don't solve parking problems. I've learned this from 20+ years of service in our community as a planning commissioner. What helps solve parking problems is comprehensive transit planning, which takes people out of their vehicles into easily-used public transit options and walkable communities. The town of Breckenridge is proposing a complete transit plan, modeled after the current transit program in the town of Vail that has been supported by a lift-ticket tax in that town since the 1960s.
Breckenridge's plan is more far-seeing and comprehensive than a single parking structure. Yet, none of Vail Resorts' propaganda mentions the town's transit plan with more frequent and free buses, such as the town of Vail offers. Vail Resorts is focusing solely on a parking structure on F-Lot, which is only part of the story. This is withholding information to sway opinion in their favor, which should be considered deceitful.
Focusing solely on the parking-garage issue, Vail Resorts says that they have offered their own land on the South Gondola lot for a parking structure. There are several problems with this suggestion: First of all, Vail Resorts has to build a parking structure on the South Gondola Lot. They also have to build a parking structure on the North Gondola Lot. I know this because I was on the Breckenridge Planning Commission when we approved the Master Development Plan for the Gondola Lots. These parking structures are each three stories tall and will border Park Avenue. The parking structures that Vail Resorts is required to build will simply replace the surface parking currently available on the Gondola Lots and will not accommodate additional public parking. So, how will Vail Resorts "create more spaces at a much cheaper cost" on the Gondola Lots? By going up? Does that mean we will have parking structures of four or five stories along Park Avenue? Why isn't Vail Resorts concerned about the visual impacts of these massive parking structures, yet dismiss the town's proposal for a parking structure on F-lot that is just two stories above ground? Perhaps Vail Resorts will give up some of their lodging and commercial-development allowances on the Gondola Lots in order to create more public parking there.
Another problem with pushing all parking to the Gondola Lots is that it plays right into Vail Resorts' hands, funneling even more customers to their vertical integration business model. This takes customers away from the town core and threatens the livelihood of the many small business owners that make our community so attractive and unique.
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The town of Breckenridge has commissioned a traffic and parking study and found that a much smaller percentage of people who park at the Gondola Lots come into the downtown core at the end of the ski day for refreshments or shopping. People who park in the lots by the Riverwalk Center or F-Lot are much more likely to extend their Breckenridge stay and spend more money. And, they can easily walk into the town core from their cars, taking more vehicles off the road.
Of course, Vail Resorts hasn't shared any of this information. This should be considered deceptive.
In their recent postcard mailing to Breckenridge residents, Vail Resorts claims that Breckenridge is "solely focused on increasing their tax revenue rather than solving problems." This is distorted. The proposed transit tax is focused solely on solving the problems of traffic, parking and congestion through a comprehensive plan that will improve the guest experience, provide more frequent transit service, offer more convenient employee parking and make it easier to move around Breckenridge. While you might not ever park in the F-Lot parking garage, you may very well use the free buses or expanded employee parking options that are part of the overall transit plan.
This same postcard asks voters to stand with Vail Resorts to "get serious about making a deal." According to town of Breckenridge officials, Breckenridge Ski Resort COO John Buhler is authorized only to "make a deal" with the town on a project-by-project basis — that is, a parking structure. Individual projects do not a transit plan make.
Vail Resorts has also accused the town of Breckenridge into rushing into this tax issue. A parking garage on F-Lot has been discussed for most of my 40+ years in Breckenridge. This is not new news. Citizens of Breckenridge have been requesting a lift-ticket tax for years in order to provide the infrastructure to bring Breckenridge up to the world-class standard of resorts like Zermatt or Vail. Empty accusations should be considered underhanded.
And finally, some entity has been purchasing full page ads in the Summit Daily News which include incomplete and disingenuous information about the proposed Breckenridge transit tax, with all of the unattributed quotes focusing solely on a parking garage. Whomever is purchasing those ads doesn't have the courtesy nor the courage to identify themselves, though we can safely assume that it is Vail Resorts. This should be considered duplicitous.
It is time for Vail Resorts to stop being disingenuous. Please let them know. As they have requested, please provide your feedback to email@example.com.
Leigh Girvin lives in Breckenridge.
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