Vail, CO, June 26 (AP by Robert Weller)--Battling to regain its crown as the nation's No. 1 ski town, Vail wants to rebuild one of its main commercial centers to attract skiers and business.
But even for a town too image-conscious to tolerate a cemetery within its limits, the idea of declaring the Lionshead area a blight in order to knock down a dozen million-dollar condominiums was too much.
``If they can do that to rich people they can do it to anybody,'' said Dennis Foley, who works at Bart & Yetis, a restaurant popular among local workers.
Two consecutive below-par snow years have left Vail trailing Breckenridge in skier visits and have forced budget cuts on a community used to surpluses.
Redeveloping Lionshead, one of two major base villages or commercial centers in Vail, could generate an additional $20 million a year in revenue, said town planner Russell Forrest.
The proposed redevelopment would have included a new community center, and a plaza that would give visitors an experience like visiting ``the plazas in major European cities,'' said Forrest. The city also hoped to attract a major hotel.
The city already owns most of the land _ except for the site of the proposed lake, which is occupied by the dozen condos.
The wealthy homeowners, who enjoy spectacular views, were infuriated at the thought that the city might condemn their properties.
``This is heaven to me. I walked all around town and couldn't find a spot like this,'' said Marilyn Dyer, president of the condo homeowner's association.
While many Vail residents have to contend with the noise of nearby Interstate 70, Dyer hears a gurgling brook. Vail Mountain's ski slopes rise above the elegant blue spruce trees that surround her three-bedroom home.
After Dyer's protests, town officials insisted they had never threatened to condemn the condos. Nevertheless, the Town Council felt the need to vote unanimously late last week to ``eliminate consideration of condemnation'' for the project.
That's not enough for Dyer, who won't feel safe as long as the town is even considering creating an Urban Renewal Authority, which could have broad powers.
``I'm not doing a victory dance,'' she said.
Mayor Ludwig Kurz says Dyer's group is overreacting. ``The council's position is that if they want to stay they can stay.''
He said he understood how they may have felt threatened ``because it is a very emotional issue and when emotions take over, and they will in cases like this, the threat seems much more real than it is.''
Kurz said the threat to Vail from other resorts for leisure dollars is real enough.
Forrest said that that if the condo owners cannot be persuaded to move, planners likely will proceed with one of two other options, smaller projects that wouldn't include taking any private land. Officials don't think they'd produce as much revenue.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press