Despite criticisms, Breckenridge Town Council won’t park its plan to build new garage
Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula and town councilmembers don’t disagree that a planned parking garage near the Riverwalk Center should ideally be somewhere else, namely the South Gondola Lot at South Park and Watson avenues.
However, after three fruitless years of trying to work out a deal with Vail Resorts, which owns Breckenridge Ski Resort and the dirt parking lot many people seem to think would make a better location for a parking structure, there’s little hope of ever reaching such an agreement, the mayor and other elected officials said.
“Just so everybody in the public knows, as we work through this, we are still trying to engage Vail,” the mayor said after everyone in the audience had been allowed to speak their piece during a public hearing for the project Tuesday at Town Hall.
“I had lunch with (one official from the ski resort) this week, spoke with (another one) today — still trying,” Mamula explained. “I don’t have a whole lot of faith anything’s going to happen, but it doesn’t mean I won’t pound my head against the wall a couple more times.”
Councilman Mike Dudick followed the mayor’s comments by saying, “the clock’s ticking” and the town is “done waiting.”
“We’re going to do something and do something soon,” he continued. “If (Vail Resorts) doesn’t want to do anything, they’re making a business decision to say, ‘No, we’re not going to sell anything to Breckenridge.’ We’ll listen to that and respond accordingly.”
Vail Resorts has been unwilling to even discuss the idea of allowing the town to build a parking garage on the South Gondola Lot, the mayor and other members of town council said, with Mamula reading an excerpt of a letter he received that included the line: “Do not ask again.”
During public comments, one man suggested the town should try some kind of land swap, but according to Mamula, throughout repeated inquires the resort’s response has been consistent: “‘We don’t want to talk to you until you build a structure, that has been the company line with everything (the town has) offered.”
With that, town council stuck to its decision to build the new structure at Tiger Dredge and F Lot, two existing town-owned parking lots adjacent to the Riverwalk Center.
“If all of the chips had fallen in the right place, and we could have maximized things on the gondola lot, undoubtedly that’s what we’d be talking about doing today,” Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe told the gallery. “It just isn’t there, and so it’s time for this council to regroup, move on and do what I think is best for our community.”
Kevin Burns, senior manager of mountain community affairs for Vail Resorts, attended Tuesday’s council meeting, but said nothing during the hearing. Afterward, he referred questions to a pair of company spokeswomen.
“We have been clear on our position in the past and have nothing new to add,” John Buhler, vice president and chief operating officer at Breckenridge Ski Resort, wrote in an emailed response to a request for comment.
Overall, the town’s new parking garage would encompass 155,000 square feet, including a transit center, lobby and restrooms.
It would go up on part of Tiger Dredge and a part of F Lot, two side-by-side surface parking lots next door to the Riverwalk Center.
Breaking down the blueprint, the new parking garage would house just over 400 parking spaces with 157 more on a redesigned F Lot and Tiger Dredge with 89, thus creating a total of 652 parking spaces between the garage and redesigned surface lots. Subtracting the existing parking spaces, the town expects a net gain of 267 spots with the project, which has been budgeted at $32 million, including about $4 million in contingency costs the town hopes not to spend.
“The structure itself is about $15 million,” Mamula responded after one local man inquired about the high cost per space.
The man replied that it seemed like an “exorbitant amount” to spend $32 million on adding that many parking spaces.
And Dudick agreed, before explaining that once stripped of all the additions, the price per space actually came in below what his company, Breckenridge Grand Vacations, recently paid to build a parking structure at the base of Peak 8.
“We spent about $65,000 per space to do that,” he said, adding that without the extras, the town’s parking garage comes out to about $51,000 per space.
“But given the location in town, we feel like (all these extra features) are the right thing to do and the right way to spend that money,” Dudick concluded.
The town will go into debt to pay for the new garage, but money to repay that debt would come out of the town’s Parking and Transportation Fund, supported by the lift-ticket tax that generates about $3.5 million annually, in addition to parking management fees and some intergovernmental funds.
One caveat of the project is that the town recently commissioned a traffic study to try to gauge traffic impacts for the Colorado Department of Transportation, which is reportedly reviewing that study now.
Because CDOT manages South Park Avenue as part of Highway 9, town staff said Breckenridge won’t move forward with the parking garage without CDOT approval. Additionally, the size of the garage was intentionally held down so it wouldn’t trigger a CDOT highway-expansion project.
“That’s why the parking structure is being held to the number of spaces that it’s being held to, is that anything larger than that would trigger the need to go four lanes on Park Avenue, and no one on this council wants to see this go to four lanes,” Wolfe told one concerned citizen deeply worried that added traffic would only lead to further congestion on Park Avenue.
‘The right answer’
During public comments, one man commended council “for finally taking some action” to address the long-standing parking program.
“This council, this town, town staff have worked diligently to find a solution, and this is the solution,” he said, “so stop talking about what’s wrong with this plan. Everything I’ve heard or read online — ‘Do this, instead of this’ — this council has actually considered all that and found a way to say that’s the wrong answer. This is the right answer.”
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.