A Silverthorne property recently saw a change of hands, to the tune of $7.25 million. The 1.23-acre parcel — housing Shell, 7-Eleven and Café Toro Mexican Grill — sold last month to Silverthorne Investors, LLC.
“It was just time to do something different. … I just wanted to spend some time with my family,” Kim Rappleye, the previous owner of the property said. “I think they’re gonna keep it just how it is.”
Summit County Assessor’s records show that Silverthorne Investors purchased the property on June 30, 2015. According to the Colorado Secretary of State, the Denver-based company was formed on June 15 of this year.
“It was an opportunity to get into Summit County. We believe in the longevity of the area,” an agent with Silverthorne Investors said. “The plans are to maintain the gas station, 7-Eleven and the hospitality area.”
According to the Summit County Assessor’s Office, the parcel at 120 Blue River Parkway was valued at $1,451,852 in 2015, a significant difference from the $7.25 million sale.
“It’s a fantastic location. The gas station is always full because people pull right in,” Summit County Assessor Beverly Breakstone. “What we’ll want to figure out is if there is really an increase in land value when you’re right off the highway exit. … it’s gonna be a test to figure out how much of that $7.25 million is business value.”
Silverthorne Investors said that the transaction was conducted as a 1031 exchange, an investment swap that would postpone capital gains taxes until the investor decided to cash out. The funds are put into an escrow company until the buyer is ready to acquire all of the property.
“We think it’s a great long-term goal for the future just because it’s so valuable,” an agent with Silverthorne Investors said. “It’s the first gas station right when you go off the highway there in Silverthorne. It’s pretty popular.”
Breakstone added that the 1031 exchange was a smart move on the company’s part.
“It’s an awful lot of money. That’s a lot of gains,” she said.
The land was last purchased in 1993, for $800,000 from the former Amoco Corporation, an oil company that merged with BP Global in 1998. Rusty Inc., a company formed by Rappleye and other investors in 1978, came to own the property for the next several years. As the owner of the gas station, Rappleye leased the remaining property to the convenience store and restaurant next door.
Breakstone said that as part of the sale validation process, the Assessor’s Office would seek information on how much the lot’s location and visibility, being next to Interstate 70, may affect its value.
“We are surprised by the magnitude of this sale and will need to evaluate if this is reflective of off-highway business impact in a larger way or if this is just a one particular parcel impact,” Breakstone wrote in an email. “The assessor values only the land and the structure; but, to have a sales price of this nature, it surely includes business value.”
“While we appreciate Vail’s expression for a public/private partnership to help fund a parking garage, there was no specific offer made, and they clearly stated there was no interest in partnering on any long-term funding toward the comprehensive parking and transit plan,” said Mayor John Warner in a written statement. “That doesn’t solve the problem.”
The town council will move forward to solve the issue with an admissions tax — or lift-ticket tax, according to the resort — which will be assessed on any company operating a for-profit activity or event that includes an admissions fee in Breckenridge.
“Vail Resorts pays that tax to the town of Vail to solve parking and transit issues but apparently not to Breckenridge.”Mark BurkeMayor Pro-Tem
“First, and most importantly, Vail Resorts has offered to contribute a significant majority of the cost of a new public parking garage and do so in a way that will not pass along those costs to Breckenridge Ski Resort guests,” said Kristin Kenney Williams, vice president of mountain community affairs.
Warner said the town’s plan, which includes an F-Lot parking garage and enhanced bus services, requires an ongoing revenue stream the town doesn’t have, which Vail Resorts disputes based on the town’s strong financial position.
Vail Resorts said the town should downsize the proposed garage; and, while the company is open to a structure at F-Lot, it offered to use its land at the South Gondola Lot for a garage, which Kenney Williams said would solve issues raised with the F-Lot location.
“This tax will be paid by all resort guests in Breckenridge, including season pass holders. Imposing a tax on all skiers and snowboarders to pay for a garage that many will never use is not appropriate,” Kenney Williams said. “The town is solely focused on increasing their tax revenue, rather than on solving problems.”
Warner and Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Burke expressed their disappointment with the company.
“Vail Resorts pays that tax to the town of Vail to solve parking and transit issues but apparently not to Breckenridge,” Burke said. “We have met nearly a dozen times specifically on this issue, and quite frankly, I’m disappointed and offended that we don’t have an agreement for long-term solutions.”
Kenney Williams said Vail Resorts supported the lift-ticket tax in Vail in 1966 to help the infant community.
“It is inappropriate for the town of Breckenridge of today to compare itself to the town of Vail in 1966. It is equally inappropriate to suggest that the town of Breckenridge should have a tax just because it exists in another community in Colorado,” she said.
Besides the garage, the plan includes a pedestrian bridge over Park Avenue, a roundabout on Village Road at Park Avenue and enhanced free bus service.
The town spends about $3 million annually on parking and transit, and the plan would require an additional $4 million to $6 million annually, which the town said the admissions tax could supply.
Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe said, “We convened a citizen parking and transit taskforce, we have had community forums and coffee talks and we commissioned a poll. Overwhelmingly, the citizens said they want these problems solved, and we want the community to help us decide. An admissions tax is the fairest way to fund our comprehensive parking and transit plan.”
The council will put the tax question on the November ballot and will continue citizen engagement and town meetings on the issue.
Short-term vacation home rentals are big business.
From Breckenridge to Park City, mountain towns cracked down — starting in 2009 — on property owners who were renting to vacationers without required permits and licenses and skipping out on taxes.
Now, according to a Colorado Association of Ski Towns (CAST) report released in June, the growth of vacation home rentals on online hosting sites has led to more challenges beyond noncompliance and lost revenue.
Community concerns have shifted to long-term rental housing loss, neighborhood character changes, zoning regulations and problems with parking and noise.
Workforce housing worries towns the most, moving tax collections issues to second-place.
The (housing) shortage could be caused more by landlords raising rent as the economy has improved and with increased property values.Brian WaldesBreckenridge financial services manager
“The workforce housing issue is just going to get tighter and tighter in our CAST towns,” said Joyce Burford, CAST executive director. “How each town solves that problem is going to vary.”
The CAST report details how 10 towns — Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Durango, Estes Park, Frisco, Jackson, Mt. Crested Butte, Ouray, Park City and Steamboat Springs — are dealing with the challenges, and it suggests communities learn from each other.
In 2014, more than 2.1 million rentals were listed on the top-three hosting sites — AirBnb, Homeaway and FlipKey — and more hosting sites pop up all the time.
“It’s a little bit like a game of whack-a-mole,” said Breckenridge Mayor John Warner. “I don’t think it’s inherently a bad thing; it’s just a different way of doing business.”
Breckenridge and Frisco officials said they recognize the positive economic contributions vacation rentals make and don’t see any new rules coming soon.
LONG-TERM RENTAL CRISIS
Of the 10 towns, Breckenridge had the second-highest portion of housing used as vacation rentals, with 41 percent of 7,187 estimated units in 2014, behind Mt. Crested Butte’s 52 percent.
Breckenridge financial services manager Brian Waldes said the portion hasn’t jumped in recent years.
Frisco has a much smaller portion of vacation rentals, with just 6 percent of total housing units estimated as being used for short-term rentals. However, vacation rental sales-tax collections form 31 percent of all lodging sales-tax collections in 2014, up 3 percent from 2010.
The CAST report notes that concerns have increased in the last year over the impacts of vacation rentals on the availability and cost of workforce housing. Most towns have done little to quantify impacts but are more interested in pursuing affordable housing options, with several towns talking about a housing crisis.
“This was the first year in my eight years as mayor I’ve really run into the word ‘crisis’ when we describe the lack of affordable properties for our workforce,” Warner said.
Breckenridge’s largest employers came to officials at the start of last ski season and urged action.
“Certainly short-term online rentals can’t be helping the situation,” Waldes said, but the shortage could be caused more by landlords raising rent as the economy has improved and with increased property values.
According to the report, the town’s long-term rental units have held steady at about 9 percent of all residential units.
WHERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD?
Breckenridge and Frisco were in the minority of towns studied that don’t restrict vacation rental locations. Short-term rentals are prohibited only in deed-restricting housing.
Mindy Brewer, who has lived in the Wellington neighborhood with her family for the last 10 years, said the proliferation of websites like AirBnB has affected Wellington dramatically in the last year or so.
“Now we’ve got strangers (who) are renting out rooms and taking our parking,” she said.
She said the Wellington’s HOA dues have risen, and neighbors might be breaking the rules because they’re struggling financially.
“People are just getting off track with affordable housing and what that was supposed to create,” she said. “Everybody’s just forgetting.”
As a property manager, she said she gets 100 inquiries in an hour after posting a long-term rental listing, and sometimes people will offer to pay $50 more a month because they’ve gotten so desperate for housing.
Warner said the Breckenridge Town Council recently celebrated the groundbreaking of a workforce housing project on Airport Road and is working on others.
Outside of deed restrictions, the CAST report found outraged neighbors in many towns fighting against the proliferation of vacation rentals while trying to preserve the visitor-driven economy.
The vacation-rental industry has grown beyond its sharing economy status and no longer uses only spare bedrooms, homes empty while owners are on vacation and second homes that owners visit a few times a year. Familiar faces in some neighborhoods are being replaced by transient populations.
Overall concern is higher for impacts on community character than on specific nuisances, the report said, of which parking violations are the biggest complaint followed by noise.
“Basically, it’s about being a good neighbor while you’re using your home as a business,” Waldes said. “You’re responsible for letting people know the rules.”
Warner said he lived in a Breckenridge neighborhood near the Stephen C. West Ice Arena where illegally-parked wedding guests became a problem. After 19 years there, he moved to the Highland Greens neighborhood off Tiger Road where vacation renters are kept in check by property management.
“It can work if it’s regulated well,” he said.
REGULATION AND EDUCATION
Unlike traditional lodging, online hosting sites don’t ensure quality or safety standards, generally don’t collect taxes and aren’t limited to zones where vacation use is more compatible or expected.
In Frisco, revenue specialist Chad Most said he generally hasn’t seen issues with vacation rentals not paying taxes or following town laws.
The town receives few complaints about parking, noise or trash, he said, and he finds between 10 and 20 units out of compliance with taxing in his annual check. As the town’s one-person tax department, though, he said he wished online hosting sites made it easier to track vacation rentals.
“If we can’t get the information off of these websites in an efficient manner, then it’s really difficult for us to enforce these rules equitably,” he said. “My big hope in the future is that there is some action not only on a statewide level, but perhaps even on a federal level.”
Durango limits the number of vacation rentals in a given area within the zones where they are allowed. It also provides an online map of all permitted vacation rentals that anyone can use to submit complaints directly to the community development department, which helps with tracking.
Breckenridge has strengthened sections of its nuisance law to address vacation rental concerns, and the town requires the designated contact person for the property to be available and live or work in town. All units must also visibly post a brochure on noise, parking, occupant, visitor and trash regulations.
The CAST report suggests other towns could model themselves after Breckenridge, which sends all new property owners a letter and a vacation rental application form that explains licensing. Then the town sends a reminder letter on requirements every four years.
“Breck has always been kind of ahead of everybody,” Burford said, starting with town manager and CAST director Tim Gagen spearheading revenue collection efforts six years ago.
The town has an estimated 99 percent licensing compliance rate, and, for the last couple years, the town reported addressing roughly five noncompliant units annually.
“People understand that it’s the cost of doing business,” Waldes said, and business licensing fees go into the town’s marketing fund and benefit property owners and managers through advertising.
At the county level, officials are still trying to understand the growth of vacation rentals.
“I don’t know that we have even digested what this all means enough to know what our public policy should be,” said County Commissioner Thomas Davidson, adding that the county attorney’s office is working on what rules the county could enforce.
Community leaders have said they want to continue supporting those doing business legally, like Tammy Ramsay, who manages five vacation rental properties in Keystone and said a panel discussion on vacation rental management tips in Summit could help.
“The short-term rentals create lots of work for the people in our county,” she said, from housekeeping, maintenance and landscaping teams to massage therapists and home chefs. “Short-term brings so much more than rental income to the owner.”
Just ask Michael Ashforth, a Summit County native who has been playing the Frisco disc golf course since the late ’90s. I met Ashforth and Audrey Kellogg, a Dillon resident, on a crystalline morning in the thick of July. The two were about to tee off on Hole 1 of the 18-hole course, one of two full courses in Summit and by far the oldest, and so I started picking their brains about the local disc golf (aka frolf, as in “Frisbee golf”) scene.
“I like all the courses, but Frisco is home,” Ashfroth said before starting strong with a par on the first hole of the day. “Disc is a blast. You can love it and hate it at the same time, and if nothing else, it’s a great excuse to get the dog out.”
But is wild popularity a good thing? Like most outdoorsy sports — think skiing, hiking, biking, fishing and the like — it can be a double-edged sword. Old-school disc players might mourn the loss of quiet, uncrowded courses, but at the same time, it’s a social sport, the sort that nearly requires a beer for the front and back nines. (A drink also comes in handy when searching once or twice or 10 times for a lost disc.) In the mountains, a round is on par with a leisurely hike through the woods, without the rigid dress code and perfectly manicured greens of a traditional golf course. Plus, dogs are more than welcome.
Dogs and beers aside, the pace of disc golf is incredibly laid-back and inviting. Take a relative newcomer like Kellogg: She only started playing earlier this summer, but she’s already fallen for disc, and fallen hard, without hours upon hours of practice.
“It’s crazy to see how good she’s gotten in just a few weeks,” Ashforth says. And maybe that’s the key to disc golf’s growing legion of converts. Anyone with a disc can play — no $1,000 investment required — and the learning curve is gentle. It’s simply a matter of learning to throw low and flat to avoid trees, branches, brush, hillsides and just about anything else found on a typical mountain-town course.
Yet not all courses are created equal. The two full Summit courses cater to different abilities, from beginner-friendly fairways at Frisco to challenging elevation drops at the revamped Dillon Course. Welcome to the Summit disc golf scene.
Lake Dillon Disc Golf Course
Lake Dillon Disc Golf Course (LDDGC) is the new kid on the block, and like all new distractions, it’s getting a fair share of attention. Nestled on the south-facing slope of Tenderfoot Mountain, the 18-hole course is more rugged than the relatively level Frisco course. The town of Dillon first welcomed players in 2014, and since then, crews have added concrete tee boxes and cleared paths from hole to hole. It’s now prepped for an official grand opening the first weekend in August, when the annual Mile High Classic tournament comes to Frisco and Dillon.
LDDGC is Summit disc golf at its finest. The course features thick pine stands and sprawling, brush-filled meadows, with drastic elevation changes on about half of the holes. The baskets are static, meaning players know what to expect every single round. This can be both an advantage and frustrating restriction, depending on who you ask. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
Remember, the course is rugged, so don’t show up in flip-flops. The first hole is a 10-minute uphill walk from the parking lot, and only one hole on the Front Nine is level from tee to basket. Expect a full round to last about two or three hours, with plenty of bushwhacking.
Parking: Park in the small dirt lot found on Cemetery Road, about 1 mile east of Dillon on Highway 6.
Distance: 401 feet
Disc golf players either love or hate Hole 4. It’s one of the most scenic on the course, featuring a tee box with unobstructed views of Summit’s natural beauty: Red Peak, Buffalo Mountain, Peak One and the Tenmile Range, the eastern shore of Lake Dillon.
But don’t let the stunning vistas lull you into a sense of security. The basket sits slightly left of the tee box, with nothing but a blanket of brush between. It also catches the full brunt of wind gusts coming off the lake, especially in the afternoon.
Distance: 533 feet
Slope: Extreme downhill
Imagine throwing a disc off the side of a cliff and you get a sense for the extreme elevation change on Hole 8. Sure, you might be able to see the basket from the tee box — it looks tantalizingly close — but there’s about 450 feet of thick brush between you and a par. After your drive, keep an eye on your disc as you walk down the steep hillside.
At 533 feet, it’s also the longest hole on the course. Again, wind here can be tricky. Wait for a break in the gusts and play the disc low and flat, aiming almost directly down at the basket.
Peak One Disc Golf Course
The Peak One Disc Golf Course at Frisco Adventure Park is a staple in the Rocky Mountain disc scene. Players come from as far as Denver, Aspen and Leadville to enjoy the mellow distances and shoreline fairways.
It’s not the most challenging course, but in the disc world, that’s hardly an issue. The Frisco Adventure Park crew moves the baskets every few weeks, so the course tends to feel fresh, even for frequent players. (The only qualm: There’s no signage to let folks know where the basket is from week to week.)
On a casual afternoon, expect to spend about two hours for a round of 18. Also expect crowds, particularly on the weekends. There’s a reason it’s so popular.
Parking: Park in the paved lot at Frisco Adventure Park.
Distance: 462 feet
If water hazards make you nervous, Hole 6 could lead to a minor breakdown. The hole doesn’t require a drive over Lake Dillon — none of the holes do — but it requires pinpoint accuracy and a touch of self-control. The basket sits on a patch of land near a small inlet, with water to the left and directly behind. Control your drive and play it short.
Distance: 660 feet
Hole 15 is easily the longest disc-golf hole in Summit. It’s not particularly hard, with a wide fairway for the first shot, but the second and third shots are critical. Large pines jut directly out of the fairway, blocking views of the basket while you’re still about 300 feet away. They’re not quite as bad as Hole 7, but when combined with a marathon distance, it can easily lead to bogey and double-bogey play late in the game
As part of a continued effort to bring affordable housing to Summit County, the town of Silverthorne passed an agreement with the Summit Housing Development Corporation to create framework for a housing buy-down program within the town. The agreement would allow the town to create criteria for purchasing vacant houses, fixing them up and selling them as deed-restricted housing.
At this point, the town has few specifics on the types of houses they would purchase, how the money would be raised and what the selling price would be. Silverthorne senior planner Lina Lesmes said the typical income cap would be at 100 percent of the area median income (AMI), directed at households making $86,000 or less. However, that percentage is not yet set in stone.
“We would be looking for people who work in Summit County at least 30 hours a week,” Lesmes said. “We just put the structure of the program in place in case we want to further develop the program.”
The buy-down program is just one strategy suggested in the county’s 2013 Workforce Housing Needs Assessment. The study, compiled by Rees Consulting, Inc., demonstrates the need for affordable housing in the county and a few methods to meet it.
For example, Silverthorne also purchased a 50-acre plot of land at Smith Ranch, held for a land-banking strategy to be developed for workforce housing in the future.
Silverthorne’s buy-down program is loosely based on one created by Breckenridge, where the town bought units at risk of being converted from employee housing to serving as a second home. The units were near public transit, or in town, and were available to incomes from 80 to 100 percent AMI.
When the initial plan was proposed in February, Silverthorne located seven properties listed for sale for less than $500,000. According to the 2013 assessment, a household with an income at 100 percent AMI would be able to purchase a home between $300,000 and $350,000. With a $50,000 to $100,000 subsidy, homes from $400,000 to $500,000 would be within budget.
The survey noted that for Silverthorne households in 2013, the majority of households (33 percent) made between 80 percent and 120 percent AMI. Thirty-two percent had incomes between 30 percent and 60 percent AMI, and 26 percent had incomes above 120 percent AMI.
The Lower Blue River Basin, including Silverthorne and unincorporated land in the area, had the smallest percentage of restricted workforce housing units, at 225 units or 11 percent of the total. The Upper Blue, including Breckenridge and the surrounding area, had the most, at 726 units or 35 percent of the total.
Still, throughout the entire county, the need for more workforce housing is evident, as many residents commute from outside of the county to make ends meet. For example, about 65 percent of Fire Protection District employees commute. On top of that, 20 percent of all summer jobs are employees who live outside of the county; during the winter, that number jumps to 30 percent.
“What happens for a number of people is they say, ‘I’m done with that,’ and they don’t put down roots in the county,” said Jennifer Kermode, executive director of the Summit Combined Housing Authority. “We still see people having difficulty affording rents between 60 percent AMI and 120 percent … but every little bit helps.”
In a recent poll of likely Breckenridge voters, a majority of respondents supported the town’s parking and transit plan including an F-Lot parking garage.
The poll was conducted in June by the Denver-based opinion research specialists Vitale and Associates on behalf of the town of Breckenridge.
Todd Vitale, founder and principal, said 120 residents with Breckenridge voting history were randomly selected and asked questions on parking, traffic and transit issues.
The respondents represent about 2.5 percent of the town’s 2013 permanent resident population, as estimated by the Summit County planning department, and Vitale said they also accurately represent the town’s demographics in terms of gender, age and political party affiliation.
Most of those polled said parking and traffic congestion in Breckenridge is a serious problem and should be a top priority for town leaders.The respondents also showed strong support for what town officials have called an admissions tax — called a lift-ticket tax by Breckenridge Ski Resort representatives — to address those challenges.
“The results are confirming,” Vitale said. “The voters understand what a serious problem parking and traffic is, and they strongly favor a long-term comprehensive plan including the consideration of a parking structure. As part of this proposal, they also want town leaders to address ongoing transit and pedestrian flow issues as they develop these long-term solutions.”
On Wednesday, July 15, the town gave the resort a proposal for a 4 percent tax on lift tickets and season passes with a deadline of Friday to respond. Resort officials have said they want to contribute to a solution but adamantly oppose the tax. Town council members have said if the two parties can’t reach an agreement, the issue will go before voters in November.
To start the poll, 72 percent of respondents said they generally supported a plan that includes a parking structure at F-Lot. When those polled were given more details from the town’s comprehensive proposal, Vitale said, in some cases support increased to 87 percent.
Respondents were asked if they were more likely to support a proposal if:
• Parking lot fees stay the same, including free after 3 p.m., all summer and during off-season — 87 percent more likely
• Structure designed to mesh with town character — 83 percent
• Structure would offer up to 600 new spaces — 83 percent
• More than 90 percent of revenue will come from out-of-town visitors — 79 percent
• Structure would likely include designated employee parking — 77 percent
• Structure part of long-term comprehensive traffic, parking, transit plan — 76 percent
• Structure would include a new pedestrian bridge/roundabout — 76 percent
“These support levels are quite high,” Vitale said. “It’s clear that voters see the comprehensive F-Lot parking and transit plan as a very positive option to address these serious problems.”
Given the details, voters also supported funding the plan through an admissions tax on lift tickets and for-profit special events.
Breckenridge Town Council has been working on a long-term solution to parking, traffic and transit problems for a number of years. Most recently, the town organized community forums, a transit and parking task force and the aforementioned June poll.
“Frankly, this poll confirms what many of us already believed about the thoughts and concerns of our citizens,” said Mayor John Warner. “It also confirms what we on the town council believe the necessary solution is for the problems. We must have a reliable source of revenue to solve the long-term parking and traffic problems we face. I’m glad the citizens are engaged in the process to consider a parking structure as part of this plan.”
He said the council will continue to interact with residents in the next few weeks as members move forward with developing and proposing a concrete plan and funding mechanism.
“This is a comprehensive plan that addresses what our citizens have stated is the No. 1 problem in our town, and we are determined to design and implement a solution,” he said.
The town started a Coffee with the Council series of informal public meetings to answer questions and gather input on Thursday, July 16, at Yellow Arrow Coffee. The next meeting will be at Cabin Coffee Co. at 222 S. Main St. on Thursday, July 23, from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
The town council is convinced the town needs a lift-ticket admissions tax to fund construction and maintenance of a new parking garage at the F-Lot at the south end of town as well as increased transit services.
On Wednesday, July 15, the town gave the resort a proposal for a 4-percent tax on tickets and season passes.
Resort representatives said they agree with the town that parking is an issue and more is needed, but they have repeatedly said no to the tax.
“We are adamantly opposed to a lift-ticket tax,” said Kristen Petitt Stewart, the resort’s communications manager.
Lift tickets haven’t been subjected to the town’s sales tax, even after ticket offices moved from federal land to within town limits.
The resort has until Friday to respond to the proposal. Then, if town officials don’t like the answer, they plan to put the tax on the November ballot.
“The council is unanimous on this issue,” said Councilman Ben Brewer. “None of us wavered one iota when it comes to the idea of first of all asking Vail Resorts to partner with us and, if they refuse, then asking the voters to pass the admissions tax.”
He added that he sees the tax as a way of improving the town’s relationship with Vail Resorts.
“It’s been kind of a dysfunctional, lopsided relationship for a long time,” he said, “and I think a lot of people are sort of ready to bring it up-to-date.”
“We keep trying to fix it with band-aids, and the band-aids are coming off,” said Kim Dykstra, the town’s communications director, referencing increased education about parking lot locations and fines for violating three-hour parking limits that haven’t curbed the problem. “We’re really concerned about how that’s going to affect our future tourism, which is obviously all of our bread and butter.”
The roughly $50 million garage would create a net gain of up to 600 parking spots, and its cost would include a roundabout at Park Avenue and Village Road and a pedestrian bridge to alleviate slow-downs caused by people crossing Park on foot.
Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe said the location is ideal because studies have shown those parked at F-Lot are most likely to go into town, and the grading allows for a three-level structure that appears shorter from downtown.
She said the tax is needed to help fund all parking and transit improvements, including management changes of current infrastructure and increased bus routes and frequencies.
The town currently spends roughly $572,000 a year on parking management and $2.4 million on transit; officials estimate improvements will increase annual operating costs by $1 million to $3 million in addition to $1.5 million to $2 million spent on new buses.
Other ski resort communities — including Vail, Telluride, Crested Butte and Park City — impose a lift-ticket tax, Wolfe said, while there has never been a tax on lift tickets in Breckenridge.
Brewer said lift tickets haven’t been subjected to the town’s sales tax, even after ticket offices moved from federal land to within town limits.
The town of Vail, 20 miles northwest, has benefited from a 4-percent lift-ticket tax since the 1990s, which Breckenridge town staff estimated brought in $4.3 million in 2014.
Wolfe said, “Breckenridge is asking for the same arrangement, the exact same arrangement.”
QUESTIONS OF SIZE, SPEED
Resort representatives said Vail’s tax is unique as it was originally developed in the 1960s as a self-imposed fee to help the new town of Vail get started as it absorbed some services provided by the ski area. With the passage of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, the fee was reconstituted as tax.
In contrast, Stewart said, Breckenridge is an already well-established town in a healthy financial position.
Brewer said the town’s surplus after the recession was evidence of financial stewardship, but the town still doesn’t have enough funds without the tax.
“We can’t afford to build the parking structure or address the transit issues. Despite the fact that the town has some money, we don’t have that much money,” he said. “A one-time gift simply doesn’t address the long-term problem.”
The resort agrees that it needs to be a funding partner, Stewart said, but it already contributes $1 million annually in running its own bus and transit services and doesn’t want to burden guests.
“We are committed to protecting the Breckenridge guest and do not believe that our guests should be charged twice: once at a parking structure and again when they buy their lift ticket,” Stewart said.
A smaller parking structure and transit improvements could be paid for with a one-time contribution from Vail Resorts, he said, combined with the addition of metered parking downtown.
Councilwoman Wolfe said the structure would be designed to fill only on busiest days of the season, so it could handle demand well into the future. It also could have electronic signage with chairlift and gondola wait times that would balance out base area crowds.
The town can’t move forward with a parking and transit plan, including designing the parking structure’s size, she said, until it secures long-term funding.
If that happens in the next few months, she said, 2016 would be spent planning and 2017 would be construction.
“If we keep going from where we are right now, it’ll still be three years before that structure is ready to park any cars,” she said. “This is not too fast.”
WHAT ABOUT METERS?
In December, a parking and transit tax force led by police chief Shannon Haynes started meeting with the goal of finding solutions to increase close-in parking for visitors.
The task force included the resort’s Shimanowitz, town and business representatives, and its members have met about a dozen times.
The task force’s primary recommendation was parking meters, said Robin Theobald, a fifth-generation Breckenridge resident and task force member.
“I was on the opposite side of the fence on parking meters before,” he said, but the group found that meters would solve most of the town’s parking and transit problems. “That was striking to me. It was like, ‘My god, we got to do this.’”
Today’s meters allow the town to enforce different rules and prices in different areas, create free parking at certain times and change everything easily online. Those parking can use smartphones to pay for more time while sitting at dinner.
Theobald said the town should further consider meters and shouldn’t bundle parking solutions with the lift-ticket tax. What if voters are for the tax but against the new garage or vice versa? He also praised Vail Resorts’ cooperation during task force meetings.
Jeffrey Bergeron, a longtime resident and former council member, questioned whether adding a pay structure would lesson congestion caused by drivers searching for free parking. He supported a smaller parking garage and suggested Breckenridge may reach a capacity and stop growing as fast as projected.
Dick Carleton, managing partner of Mi Casa and Hearthstone restaurants, expressed concerns about the garage’s impacts on Park Avenue traffic and said parking meters would hurt Breckenridge’s brand.
“I’m adamantly against metered parking. I don’t think it fits in Breckenridge,” he said.
Wolfe said the town is still considering meters as a method of changing parking behaviors but would want more community feedback before taking action.