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.
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.
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
“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
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
“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