Cheaper housing tops Vail’s concerns
VAIL ” Affordable housing is on Vailites’ minds. As for construction, they perhaps increasingly wish it was out of sight.
According to Vail’s biennial community survey released this summer, employee housing was the biggest issue facing the town. And there was considerably less excitement about all the redevelopment that’s now occurring in Vail’s “renaissance.”
Shannon Vitalis, who works at the Vail Marriott, said Monday that she agrees that affordable housing is the top issue.
“All winter long, I saw people desperately looking for place to live, but there was nothing available,” she said.
At the same time, there were lots of jobs available, Vitalis said.
She now lives in Middle Creek, an affordable apartment complex that the town helped create. The town could do more to create that type of housing, she said.
“I think they need more,” she said.
Housing beat out development and parking as the most-identified answer when residents were asked the “two biggest issues” facing the town.
In the survey, 58 percent of people said Vail is on the “right track,” down from 70 percent in 2005, but similar to the 57 percent who said they were on the “right track” in 2003.
Residents who had lived here for 15 years or more were generally more negative about the direction of Vail is going compared to people who have been here fewer than five years, according to RRC Associates, the group that conducted the survey.
And part-time residents are generally more positive than full-time locals, RRC said.
Parking came in third for “biggest issues” facing the town, at 13 percent. It was the top answer in 2005, when 21 percent of people named it.
Dan Telleen, a longtime Vail resident and owner of Karats, a jewelry gallery in Vail Village, said parking is still an important issue to him.
“I think right now the parking structure is almost full,” Telleen said on Monday afternoon.
Employees, including construction workers, come early in the morning and take up spaces all day long, Telleen said. That makes it hard for tourists and other customers to find places to park, he said.
Perhaps employees should be encouraged to park in the bottom level of the parking garage, he said.
And affordable housing comes hand in hand with parking, Telleen said.
If there’s more affordable housing nearby, employees won’t have to drive to work and park. And if affordable housing is built father afield, perhaps in Wolcott, there should be sufficient bus service to bring employees into town, he said.
Telleen said he’d like to see affordable housing interspersed among more-expensive homes throughout Vail.
“That kind of mix is really healthy for a tourist’s experience,” he said.
In another part of the survey, residents were asked to rate a list of 10 topics important to Vail’s future, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 the most important. The top results were:
– Environmental protection (4.3).
– Addressing the pine beetle infestation (4.1).
– Parking (4.0).
– Facilitating a range of workforce housing opportunities (3.8).
– Sustaining a year-round tourism in Vail (3.8).
Richard Berkshire of East Vail agreed that addressing the pine-beetle problem is important, gesturing to the dead trees as he stood across the interstate outside the Vail Post Office.
He would like to see more aggressive removal of beetle-killed trees, he said.
“There’s no reason they shouldn’t be cleared properly to mitigate fire risk, and use the wood,” he said.
Vail should be a leader when it comes to environmental stewardship, Berkshire said.
“I think they should set an example,” he said.
Paul Kuzniar, a part-time Vail resident who spends summers in Vail, said housing is the No. 1 issue for him.
“If we don’t fix that, our service level will deteriorate, then our tourist base will evaporate,” he said.
Kuzniar said he supports Vail’s “renaissance” ” even though there’s a big building noisily under construction a few hundred yards from his home.
Overall, residents seem to be less excited about the construction. In the survey, residents rated their “satisfaction with the quality of the new development and redevelopment over the past three years” as 3.1 out of 5, compared to 3.6 out of 5 last year.
“I realize it’s very inconvenient, it’s dirty, it obstructs traffic, some of the lines of sight being lost,” Kuzniar said. “But we had to redevelop. … There are a lot of other options that people can choose if Vail doesn’t keep pace.”
This year, more people said the “sense of community” in town has gotten worse in the last two years. Thirty-six percent of people said that, compared to 21 percent in 2005.
“Everyone I know has moved or is moving downvalley,” said one survey respondent. “The only ones left are not into community!”
The study was done at the close of last ski season and included phone surveys of 300 year-round residents and 100 part-time residents. In addition, 59 surveys were submitted via mail or the Internet.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see complete results of this year’s Vail community survey, go to http://www.vailgov.com.
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