Vail council, planning commission want more environmental focus
Groups have a wide-ranging discussion about town’s goals
For Vail Town Council member Brian Stockmar, the town’s Planning and Environmental Commission for too long has done too much planning and not enough environmental evaluation. That could be changing.
The Vail Town Council and the planning commission Tuesday got together virtually for a wide-ranging discussion of the commission’s work and how it fits in with broader town goals.
The discussion is an important one. Since Vail is a “home rule” community, the planning board is more than an advisory group. That board’s decisions are final in most cases.
Stockmar, a former commission member, said putting more focus on the board’s environmental role will require work from the commission, Town Council and the town’s planning staff.
Vail Community Development Department Director Matt Gennett said he’ll take on providing more environmental focus in evaluations of applications that come to the board.
Council member Kim Langmaid said the commission should be more proactive on environmental issues.
“It’s up to (the commission) to delve into these issues … not just responding to staff,” Langmaid said.
Brian Gillette, a longtime commission member, said he’s found it difficult over the years to get commission-prompted work into the board’s agendas.
Gennett suggested that commission take some time every other meeting or so to suggest new or continuing initiatives. That could get the town’s Community Development and Environmental Sustainability departments working on those issues.
“The solution you pointed out is a good one,” commission chair Ludwig Kurz said. “We have ‘nuts and bolts’ meetings, and other times, the environmental impact is pretty important.”
Working on environmental issues in advance could be helpful so applicants aren’t surprised when they come in for approvals, Kurz said.
While the commission’s work is laid out in the town code, Mayor Dave Chapin said perhaps strengthening the code would help the board take a broader look at environmental issues.
Chapin added that the council and the commission need to be “aligned” on issues ranging from environmental issues to parking and housing.
Stockmar noted that putting more emphasis on environmental issues need to create more forward-thinking work.
“My experience with (the commission) was that it was always reactive,” Stockmar said. Putting more focus on environmental issues requires returning to a former way of operating that’s been lost over the years.
“We need to work … so environmental issues become just as important to planning” as other requirements, he said.