Residents rank council "average’
The 400 residents who responded to the town’s annual Community Survey this year said the most pressing problems are parking for skiers in the winter, economic viability and the degradation of the environment, said Chris Cares of Boulder-based RRC Associates, which conducted the survey during the last week of March and the first week of April.
“More people responded that the town was on the right track than on the wrong track,” Cares told council members in an explanation of the results Tuesday evening.
Of the 300 permanent residents and 100 second-home owners interviewed, 54 percent said Vail was “on the right track,” while 35 percent said the town was headed in the wrong direction.
Those numbers changed, however, when the same question was asked of a selection of Vail business owners, 45 percent of whom said the town was on the “wrong track.” Only 35 percent of merchants said the town was going in the right direction, Cares said.
Residents surveyed, however, don’t appear to have attributed Vail’s success to the Town Council, which was given an “average” score for its performance. The Town Council’s rating has been decreasing steadily – within the realm of average – over the last few years, Cares said.
The town’s Design Review Board and Planning and Environmental Commission also received “average” scores. But Cares said town councils and other decision-making boards rarely receive glowing scores in similar surveys done in other towns.
“You are in the tough position of making tough decisions and explaining them to the public,” Cares said.
On the issues
Residents were highly satisfied with the town’s fire and police departments, as well as bus service and the library.
Affordable housing was less of a concern this year than in the past, receiving a score of 3.7 out of 5 when residents were asked about the most the serious problems facing Vail. At the top of that list was “sustaining economic viability in Vail,” “protection of Vail’s environmental resources,” and “adequate and safe parking during peak visitor periods.”
The conference center, which voters in November approved a tax increase to build, was at the bottom of that list, receiving a score of only 2.5.
“Parking has clearly become a dominant issue,” Cares said.
Residents were evenly split when asked if the Frontage Road is a suitable place for skiers to park. But an overwhelming majority said kicking skiers off the Frontage Road was not worth inconveniencing residents, Cares said.
The town and Vail Resorts are in discussions over parking congestion. The construction of a conference center and Vail Resorts’ plans to renovate Lionshead could cause an even more severe parking crunch. But it is hoped whatever parking is built for the conference center, expected to be used mainly in the summer and off-season, could provide space for weekend skiers and snowboarders. There also have been discussions of expanding the Lionshead parking garage when the area is renovated.
Parking “unique to Vail’
Other ski towns are not grappling with parking congestion to the extent Vail is, Cares said.
“I think parking is relatively unique to Vail. It’s not something you see in a lot of other ski towns at the same level,” Cares said. “There’s a real call for wrestling with parking issues.”
Residents of Vail seemed more anxious about the local economy, meanwhile, than respondents in other towns, Cares said.
Among economic issues, rents merchants have to pay to lease space for their shops was by far the biggest problem, receiving a score of 4.4 out of 5.
“There’s a lot of concern about the cost of leasing space,” Cares said.
The survey found solid support for $1 million in budget cuts the town made this year – 53 percent said the cuts were “about right,” while 14 percent said they were “too deep” and 11 percent said the cuts were “not deep enough.”
Residents also were asked about how strong a sense of community there is in Vail. Only 16.4 percent said the sense of community in town had improved, while 31.1 percent said it had gotten worse. Those numbers have stayed about the same over the last few years, Cares said.
Council members said little Tuesday about the results of the survey, although Councilman Greg Moffet did say he wondered why residents weren’t asked this year about noise from Interstate 70, a problem that has led some to suggest burying the stretch of freeway running through Vail. Moffet said responses to that question would vary between winter, when most people have their windows closed, and summer.
“I think people are paying attention to different things in August than in March,” Moffet said.
The full survey can be found on the town’s Web site: http://www.vailgov.com.
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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