Buhler: Breckenridge Ski Resort weighs in a transit talks with town (column)
June 24, 2016
As all of you will recall last summer, we had a robust discussion with the Breckenridge Town Council and with the community about how best to address parking and transit needs in Breckenridge. The council came to that dialogue with some very strongly-held and very public positions. We often did not agree with the council but ultimately came together in a landmark moment of cooperation, with an agreement on a $3.5 million annual tax to be paid by skiers that would bring significant new skier parking to the core of town. However, after that tax was passed by voters, it appears that council is moving away from everything that was said last summer.
Last summer, the council was adamant that we needed to add new skier parking, and that this was an urgent matter that was truly imperative to our community (The council said in the Summit Daily News regarding adding new parking that "2016 would be spent planning and 2017 would be construction.") Vail Resorts was in complete agreement with the council on this point.
Unfortunately, we understand that council is now considering delaying new parking by three-five years. This is completely unacceptable and contrary to why this tax was rushed by council in the first place.
Further, in other council editorials in this paper, council members said that "we have studied the feasibility of a new structure at F-Lot to death! F-Lot is the right location to park cars in the core of town" and "the time for studies and surveys is over!" and that "Vail Resorts must contribute … to benefit skier parking … in the core of Town."
It was because of council's conviction on these points that we agreed to work out an agreement with them around a tax. During those discussions, we requested specificity in the agreements on exactly how our skier's money would be used — what projects, what timing, where? The council responded that our company needed to trust the council to follow through on these promises and give them the latitude on the exact design of the structure and visuals and traffic flow and that beyond this parking structure, the council should have latitude on the additional transit projects it would undertake. At no time was it ever suggested that if the tax passed that the council would change its mind completely and abandon a new 700-900 space garage on F-Lot.
Ultimately, we gave the council our trust and moved forward, with every reason to believe that this would begin a new moment in our relationship with the community because we had come together to provide an immediate solution to what everyone agreed was the top priority — new skier parking in the core of town.
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Between last summer and up until now, I and my team have prioritized rebuilding our relationships. But following through on public commitments is critical to building trust. Council has never been afraid to hold our company accountable for our commitments and we believe the town should be held to the exact same standard. We believe others in the community have the same expectation.
We believe there is still time for council to turn its attention back to F-Lot and be ready to commence construction on the project in the spring of 2017, as was promised by council last year. If council has decided to take a step back and completely relook at how to solve parking and transit, then a broader conversation about the tax itself should be undertaken and our company will be an active and open participant in talking about other solutions. After much distress, we came together last summer to find a way to help our community. We very much hope that council can now follow through on that collaboration.
John Buhler is the vice president and COO of Breckenridge Ski Resort.
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