Annual Vail community meeting fills Donovan Pavilion
VAIL — Vail’s annual community meeting is always well attended. This year’s edition, held Tuesday evening at Donovan Pavilion, was a good chance to chat, too.
In years past, chairs in the pavilion were laid out classroom style. Presenters presented, residents asked questions and everyone went home.
This year, there were rows of chairs, but there were tables, too, and the perimeter of the room was filled with displays and presentations from town departments as well as the U.S. Forest Service and the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District.
“It’s nice — it was a chance for people to talk to each other,” longtime resident Vi Brown said.
Town employees were answering questions at the display tables, of course. But Vail Town Council members were scattered throughout the room, too.
Brown said she took advantage of the opportunity to talk to individual council members, mostly about her favorite issue these days: keeping parking free in the summer.
“I want us to be known as a down-home, friendly place in the summer,” she said.
RESTORE THE GORE
The water district, Walking Mountains Science Center and the Vail Environmental Sustainability Department all occupied the southwest corner of the pavilion’s main room. There, resident Ann Louthan talked about the town’s Restore the Gore efforts, and what she believes is the primary culprit in the degradation of the stream.
“The town needs to collect all the gravel” it puts down on roads in the winter, Louthan said. The East Vail resident said she drives the frontage road every day, and sees the amount of sand and gravel spread on the roads.
“There are places where the edge of the road is only 18 inches (from a drop off to the creek),” Louthan said.
Council member Kim Langmaid, founder of the Walking Mountains Science Center, said she’d talked to a number of residents about the creek cleanup efforts. There’s a lot to explain, she said, adding that the town’s draft plan for the cleanup is made up of 220 action items over the course of several years.
Of course, there was some presentation time, too. But this year, Mayor Dave Chapin was the only presenter, and he kept his remarks relatively brief.
Chapin talked about the town government’s commitment to better communication with residents, saying those at town hall have learned from the controversy sparked by plans to rebuild the Vail Golf Club’s clubhouse.
“We’ve learned a lot of lessons,” Chapin said, adding that those lessons have been applied to how the town has tackled projects including the new Interstate 70 underpass, Booth Creek Park and the proposed new affordable housing neighborhood in West Vail.
“The clubhouse, as contentious as it was, has made us stronger,” Chapin said.
The town also remains strong financially, and is coming off four consecutive years of record sales tax collections.
That trend may slow this year, as Chapin acknowledged that sales tax revenues dipped slightly in January of this year compared to the same month in 2015. February is also expected to drop a bit from last year, due in large part to the boost provided by the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
With Easter falling early this year — March 27 — and Vail Mountain closing April 10, about a week earlier than normal, town officials are also expecting a drop in April’s tax collections.
“We’ll be looking closely at all of that,” Chapin said. “But let’s wait until the end of the season to see where we are.”
Chapin, co-owner of Vendetta’s restaurant in Vail Village, said he knows how difficult taking a long view can be.
“In my business, if we have one down month … but let’s take a cautious approach,” he said.
Overall, though, the town seems to be in good shape financially and is maintaining its reputation as a great place to play.
Following Chapin’s presentation, longtime resident Mark Gordon said he liked what he heard at this year’s meeting.
“It’s nice that this council has minimally controversial issues to deal with,” Gordon said. “I’m confident in this council’s ability to keep things going.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com or @scottnmiller.