The sign at the entrance to Mountain Village directing traffic to free gondola and skier parking might not have to be revised after all, at least not this season.
The operative word is “free.” And skier parking will remain free this season, and possibly beyond, because the three Mountain Village entities that have an interest in guest services are working toward agreement on a three-way split of the estimated $60,000 cost of managing overflow skier parking.
With the pending agreement, the Mountain Village Town Council has walked back a plan to begin charging for parking at the gondola parking lot and for overflow parking on Mountain Village Boulevard on days when the parking lot is filled. The proposed $10 per day charge for parking was aimed at raising funds to cover the costs of managing overflow parking.
If it is ultimately signed, the agreement between the Town of Mountain Village, the Telluride Ski and Golf Co., and the Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association would at least temporarily resolve a dispute that began when the TMVOA board indicated over the last several months that faced with a budget crunch it would not allocate funds in 2010 for the purpose of managing overflow skier parking, including shuttling skiers from their cars to the slopes and back, as it had done for the previous few years.
Telski CEO Dave Riley subsequently indicated that Telski would not cover the cost either, leaving the matter to the Mountain Village Town Council. Arguing that town taxpayers already pay $700,000 in annual debt service for the gondola garage plus another $260,000 annually in maintenance and management costs, council drew a line in the sand. If Telski wouldn’t pick up the incremental cost of managing overflow parking, the town announced at the end of October, it would begin charging skiers to use the gondola parking garage.
That announcement set up a likely legal battle between the town and Telski because Mountain Village is obligated under the terms of the agreement whereby the ski company conveyed the land for the gondola parking garage to the town to provide free skier parking.
But before the dispute got to a courtroom, in the apparent belief that to start charging for skier parking could present an economic disaster in an already challenging economy, all three parties blinked, agreeing to split the cost three ways.
If the immediate crisis of charging skiers to park has been averted, the Mountain Village Town Council on Thursday struggled to understand how it could create a strong incentive in the agreement for Telski to cooperate in reaching a long-term solution to the problem of inadequate skier parking. A proposed deal negotiated by Mayor Bob Delves would establish a task force to find suitable overflow parking lots so that Mountain Village Boulevard would not need to be used for that purpose. If suitable overflow parking could be found, Telluride Ski and Golf Co. CEO Dave Riley reportedly told Delves, he would be amenable to allowing a charge for parking in the gondola parking structure.
The agreement was vague, however, about possible locations for overflow parking and who should manage and pay for it, and about what would happen if a long-term solution is not reached. Given that, it was unclear at the end of council’s discussion Thursday how the agreement would ultimately be crafted.
For the coming season, assuming an agreement is signed, in addition to the free parking in the 450-vehicle gondola garage and overflow parking on Mountain Village Boulevard, the town has paid parking available in its new covered and heated Heritage parking garage, which contains 200 spaces, with 80 of those spaces managed by the Telluride Capella. Parking there will cost $2 per hour, to a maximum of $30 in a 24-hour period. There is also paid parking at the North Village and Pond parking lot, for $2 an hour, to a maximum of $20, with no overnight parking allowed.