Failed conference center leaves $7M behind


By Edward Stoner
November 9, 2005

VAIL — The rejection of the Vail conference center in Tuesday’s election leaves the town of Vail with $7 million in its coffers collected from a mix of lodging and sales taxes passed in 2002 to pay for the center.

The money must now be refunded or used for another purpose that would be approved by voters next November. Town council will decide what course of action should be taken.

By an 806-542 tally, voters rejected a ballot question that sought up to a 1.5-percent increase in lodging tax to fund the $64.7 million proposed conference center. The failure of the proposal kills the project and repeals the taxes passed in 2002.

After Jan. 1, the town can no longer collect the taxes — a 0.5 percent sales tax and a 1.5 percent lodging tax. An ordinance to repeal the taxes will come before the new Town Council before Jan. 1.

‘Totally impractical’
Town Manager Stan Zemler said the town has not yet researched the ways that the tax could be refunded, if the council decides to take that route. But he said it’s not feasible for the people who paid the tax to get the refunds.

“It’s totally impractical,” he said. “That’s not going to happen.”
One possibility is to reduce tax rates for some period of time to compensate for the amount of money raised by the conference center taxes, he said.

A ballot question to use the funds for another purpose would have to
appear on a November ballot, Zemler said.

“It could be for any legitimate goverment purpose,” he said. “That’s clearly a wide range of possibilities or opportunities.”

He said he suspects a ballot question would ask voters to use the money for a specific project or projects.

Moving forward
Rob Ford, a former mayor who led the anti-conference center group Conference Center Revote, said his group is leaving the decision on what to do with the funds up to the council.

“We made a conscious effort to stay away from what we thought should be done with the money,” he said. “That’s a decision that should be made by the council.”

The decision to move forward with the conference center with a divided council was unusual, he said. He said the council needs to come to a consensus on a plan for the money.

“They need to get on the same page and come up with a format that they can take on as a majority and move forward with the community,” he said.

There are plenty of proposed projects in the community that could use funding, he said.

“Maybe a West Vail fire station,” he said. “Who knows? There’s been enough stuff on the plate.”

Greg Moffet, a councilman who was re-elected Tuesday and was a supporter of the conference center, said he hasn’t considered the issue.

“I don’t think anybody’s given any serious thought to that at this point,” he said. “There’s going to plenty of discussion on that.”

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14623, or

Vail, Colorado