Vail at the Crossroads

Must Peter Knobel destroy the village to save it?

But with Solaris now going through the SDD process, the council had to decide if a bowling alley was a public benefit. And if Knobel was allowed more square footage because he was including movie theaters, would future developers try to push the envelope?

"With this new guy, the city is so desperate for any kind of development that they're willing to give him anything," says Ford. "And that's the big departure from what we've done in the past. Now that has appropriately and not surprisingly caused the old guard to come unglued. They've fought for forty years to build this in their image. So to just arbitrarily say, ŒOkay, we just want to make this change here and we're going to a much more high-density format,' that's a big change based on the vote of one councilmember."

A referendum will at least make the decision on Vail's future direction clear and public, he says.

"The social glue has broken apart between generations because there is a change in political discourse," Lamont adds. "Very confrontational, very hostile, very personalized. So there is a split within the body politic that for the first time is represented in the four-three vote. Whenever you get such a convergence in generational attitudes, you get blood in the water, political blood in the water. And that attracts sharks. And that's what's going on with Crossroads."


"I like to think I'm not anti-anything. I'm just anti-stupid, is what I am," Kaye Ferry says, then hoists a margarita to her lips. La Cantina restaurant and bar is located deep inside the Vail Village parking structure, and conveniently below Ferry's one-room office at the Vail Chamber and Business Association. "And they're a little bit disappointed, frankly," she continues. "My phone has been ringing off the wall with people saying, 'Why are you doing this? This is the wrong thing.'"

Ferry has just returned to the building from her other job teaching ski school. Nineteen years ago, in the process of getting a divorce, she fled from Chicago to Vail to get out of town for a while. She never went back. Instead, she opened up the Daily Grind, a popular coffee shop/bar on Bridge Street, and ran it for fifteen years. Since she closed up shop three years ago, she's been writing a column for the Vail Daily as well as "running the chamber and being on the liquor board and a bunch of other shit."

Ferry is one of Knobel's most vocal supporters and has written a string of columns criticizing councilmembers for grandstanding and causing needless delays. "They seem to think I should be on board with this because it's all the same kind of mentality, but it's not," she says. "To me, all they're really doing is making things drag out and causing aggravation. This guy has a perfect legal right. He's been approved by everybody, and this is nonsense that we're getting in the way of this.

"Because what they're being driven by now is not numbers, it's not the economics of the situation, it's not what's good for the community," she continues. "It's their pure personal opinion that nothing should ever change in Vail. And that's not where I am. Rarely is change bad, in my opinion. Change is almost always uncomfortable, but rarely is it bad."

Ferry believes that Solaris's opponents are in the minority and that most business owners support the project. "Because everyone understands that Crossroads is one of the key cornerstones of what's going on in Vail Village right now," she says. "It has to be done. And the worst part is that it would be put off another year because of this election." Even if Knobel's project passes the referendum vote, as she believes it will.

"The fact of the matter is that Peter Knobel is an outsider. He came here from New York with a big checkbook, and they don't like it," she says. "I have said from day one, and I quite frankly don't give a shit if you print it, if Peter Knobel had hired Rod Slifer to be his sales agent, we would've had a hole in the ground already. There's just a cycle of these people, and they all take care of each other. And Knobel is not in that circle. They don't like that he can get something done without them."

Mark Gordon, who won the most votes in last November's town council election, never imagined that he'd be in the position of defending a developer. Before moving to Vail six years ago to take a job as foreman of the ski mountain's security department, he worked as a freelance producer of industrial commercials and videos, and prided himself on being a community activist. His progressive political leanings usually put him on the anti-development side of the fence, and he ran for council because he wants to return Vail to a place where middle-class working families can live.

The founders of the town built a truly amazing place, he says, but they overlooked a big piece of the puzzle. "And that was their own success," he explains. "Their own success has created a utopia, a place where people want to live because it's so spectacular." As at other resort communities, this caused a dramatic inflation in real-estate prices, pushing out families and working residents. With single-family homes in Vail now averaging $1.4 million, only 30 percent of Vail's workforce still lives in town.

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