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Lionshead plan called risky

Special to the Daily A Texas developer wants to rebuild the Lionshead parking structure into hotels, parking, condos, timeshares, a conference center, public parking, stores and restaurants. It would look like this from the Vail Mountain gondola.
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VAIL ” Vail could approve Tuesday night a $900 million plan to replace the Lionshead parking structure with a conference center, a bus station, condos, timeshares, stores, restaurants and public parking.

Still, getting permission from Broomfield-based ski company Vail Resorts could be a problem for the project, which is slated to begin in the spring of 2010.

Council members say they may give Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz several months to release the “deed restriction” on the garage that must be removed to allow the project to proceed.

“There will be a time limit,” said Councilman Mark Gordon. “I think it’s a matter of months.”

But Katz sent a letter to the town earlier this month that said he wouldn’t approve the Lionshead development until a second parking structure ” the one planned for Vail Resorts’ Ever Vail village in West Lionshead ” is completed.

With Ever Vail slated to begin with the realignment of the South Frontage Road in 2009 at the earliest, the completion of the garage could be at least three years away. The $1 billion Ever Vail still needs town approvals.

Mayor Dick Cleveland said the council will discuss Katz’s letter Tuesday.

“We weren’t happy with the letter,” Cleveland said. “Rob Katz doesn’t get to decide everything, and we’re going to have discussions about the letter and his conditions.”

Gordon said it’s all a matter of negotiations.

“That was a letter of negotiation in my mind, and we are in the process of responding to that,” Gordon said. “There were many things in that letter that I think need to be negotiated. He’s laid out his side. We’ll come out with our side, and we’ll come to a solution.

Katz said Monday he’s not willing to budge.

“This is not a negotiation for us,” Katz said. “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.”

Mark Masinter, the leader of the Texas development team, has a plan to leave at least 1,150 spaces ” the current number there ” available during the construction, but Katz said the company still isn’t willing to risk losing parking.

“That just is not a risk that we’re willing to take, and we don’t think the community should take it, either,” Katz said. “You plan for the best and prepare for the worst. … We think it’s great that (Masinter) has that plan, and if he pulls it off, it’s terrific.”

About 40 percent of Vail Mountain skiers use Lionshead as a starting point, Katz noted.

Masinter said he thinks he can change Katz’s mind.

“I believe once we sit down with officials from Vail Resorts and go through our (parking) phasing plan, there will be less concern about it,” he said.

Vail Resorts, a publicly traded company, owns Vail Mountain and is also a major developer in Vail.

Masinter’s plan would bring a five-star St. Regis hotel, a four-star W hotel and a 44,000-square-foot conference center to Lionshead. It would also bring even more public parking than what the Lionshead garage has now as well as a large transportation center similar to what is in Vail Village now.

Even with the prospect of the project being delayed, the Texas group isn’t looking to abandon the proposal, Masinter said.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Masinter said. “I’m a young guy, and we’re committed to the process, no matter what the process is. … But I think the town needs its parking dilemma solved way before 2012.”

Tuesday’s meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Vail Municipal Building.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.


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