People of Breck: Stop rushing and let’s get this right
Vail Resorts and the town of Breckenridge agree on two fundamental points:
Parking is an issue.
Vail Resorts has offered to contribute a significant majority of the cost of a new, reasonably-sized public-parking structure.
I want to thank town councilwoman Wendy Wolfe for acknowledging some of the open items with the town’s parking structure proposal in her recent letter to the community (Summit Daily News, town of Breckenridge advertisement, July 29, 2015).
First, she acknowledges the town has not yet “determined the total number of spaces for the new proposed structure,” nor has the town determined if it will be built all at once or be designed for some undefined “future expansion.” It’s important to note that these are fundamental questions to determining the cost and community impact of this parking structure — both of which need to be resolved BEFORE the town should impose a tax on skiers and snowboarders.
Second, she acknowledges that F-Lot is the “perfect location” because people who park there “intend to walk into town” and, assumedly, energize the retail stores and restaurants on Main Street.
We don’t take issue with that, but it highlights the town’s proposal is not designed solely to address skier parking. In fact, to use F-Lot, we estimate it will cost the town approximately $16 million to just replace the existing parking spots with an underground structure. And, while F-Lot will energize the south end of Main Street, it could also make congestion worse at the end of the ski day. So, while our company remains open to a structure on F-Lot, it should be clear to everyone that F-Lot is not currently planned to be a cost-effective or low-impact solution to addressing skier parking.
Our company offered to the Town Council another option: A parking structure on the South Gondola Lot, a parcel that our company owns, that could create many more parking spaces at a much cheaper cost (We estimate at least 30 percent less expensive) and avoid the traffic and visual concerns that have been raised about having such a large structure near the town’s historic core. The South Gondola Lot has always been planned for a parking structure, and, of course, any parking we add today would be in addition to any existing parking required of our company. The Council has declined to even discuss this approach or any other alternative ideas and remains fixated on talking about nothing but a funding source for a project that is still undefined.
Once again, our company agrees we need to address parking in the town of Breckenridge, and we need to be part of the funding solution. However, the proposed parking structure — at any size — is the largest single project ever undertaken by the town, and the community has only just begun to discuss a comprehensive transit plan. And, this Council is now proposing the largest tax increase in Breckenridge’s history and one of the largest for any town in Colorado — a tax that may not even pass legal muster.
These are all very important issues that need to be debated by the entire Breckenridge community, and we should all be open to every idea and proposal and review the merits and issues with each of them with full transparency.
Please join me in asking the Town Council to step back for a moment and commit to working through the details of their multi-million dollar project, so we can collaboratively address this community’s biggest needs before imposing a tax on all of us. There’s no need to rush — our commitment is real — so let’s get this right.
John Buhler is vice president and chief operating officer of Breckenridge Ski Resort.
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