VAIL — Part of the reason it has taken so long to pass a recycling mandate in Vail is that questions about implementation have dogged the proposal.
Those questions were answered to the satisfaction of five Vail Town Council members on Tuesday, enough to give final approval to an ordinance that makes the town the first in the valley to mandate recycling — and make not recycling a civil offense.
One of the biggest questions residents and council members have is just how some buildings in Vail Village and Lionshead will be able to meet the new requirements.
Ron Riley is the co-owner of Russell’s restaurant. That building, along with three others, are members of a trash facility “association” for a structure behind Russell’s and the Gorsuch building. Riley told the council he’s been involved in several meetings with other building owners, town officials and representatives of his trash hauler trying to find a way to incorporate recycling facilities into the existing trash structure.
So far, there hasn’t been a solution.
Riley and the other association members aren’t alone — there are several areas in Vail Village and Lionshead where recycling will be difficult, and perhaps impossible right now.
EXEMPTIONS FROM THE LAW
That’s why the new ordinance allows the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission to grant exemptions from the law. Those exemptions can be good for up to two years. Building owners will have to re-apply for further exemptions in the future.
Vail resident and business owner Bill Suarez lauded the new arrangement.
“There might be places in town where it’s just tough (to comply),” Suarez said. “Everybody seems to be in favor of this, and we’re willing to try. But (the ordinance) needs to be reasonable.”
Another one of the big questions plaguing the recycling mandate has come from people who either live in or manage multi-unit buildings and who want to make sure they aren’t liable for penalties caused by others.
Council member Dale Bugby said he’s worried that building associations, or individuals, might be fined for stray bottles or fast-food bags in the wrong bins.
The new ordinance states that loads of recyclables that are “spoiled” by more than 25 percent of the material in the wrong bins can be found in violation of the new ordinance.
STEEP FINES POSSIBLE
Those fines, if imposed, can be steep — up to a maximum of $999 in fines and 180 days in jail for every violation.
Those penalties prompted Bugby to lobby for some sort of “reasonableness” standard in the ordinance.
“I wish the ordinance was written the way we want to enforce it,” Bugby said.
Another of the questions is how to make the recycling measure fit in with an existing law requiring bear-resistant trash containers. Those containers can be expensive, up to $300 each. Council member Dave Chapin proposed a compromise two weeks ago that allows people who don’t have locked enclosures to put out regular bins on collection day.
But Chapin and Mayor Andy Daly both came to council Tuesday after talking to state wildlife officials, who urged them to require bear-resistant recycling containers, too.
To help offset those costs, the council agreed to offer rebate to residents that covers the difference in cost between bear-attracting and bear-resisting bins.
Approval DESPITE ‘no’ votes
Those changes, as well as a handful of others, were enough to draw enough votes for final approval.
Dave Chapin, who, along with Bugby, voted against the ordinance, said he wants the ordinance to work.
“But it’s going to be a real challenge,” Chapin said.
Bugby agreed, adding that his “no” vote reflects what he sees as a “zero-tolerance” approach in the new law.
“I don’t think a business ought to be a criminal because we didn’t do it perfectly,” he said.