Traffic, growth, housing top Eagle concerns
Vail CO, Colorado
EAGLE ” Traffic, affordable housing and the local economy are the top concerns for Eagle residents, businesses and property owners, according to a recently completed community survey. But survey respondents placed a high value on the town’s sense of community, water and scenic qualities as well as public safety, recreational amenities and open space.
Recreational opportunities ranked high when citizens were asked why they chose to live in Eagle, and respondents called for more paved paths and trails.
National retailer shopping opportunities ” one of the hot button topics at town board meetings these days ” ranked near the bottom of the list on a questions intended to identify “quality of life” values. But there was still plenty of interest in retail, with about half of survey respondents saying shopping is a priority for them.
Residents also said they want the growth rate to slow down. The town’s population doubled from 1,500 in 1990 to more than 3,000 by 2000. That trend has only increased, with the current town population hovering around 5,000.
The survey also signaled a strong interest in curbside recycling ” a program the town is currently exploring.
Improving traffic flow emerged as a clear top priority, with 90 percent of the respondents identifying that as something they’d like to see addressed.
The purpose of the survey, conducted last summer by Summit County-based Venturoni Surveys and Research, was to identify community concerns and values.
Eagle Town Board member Scot Hunn said he was impressed with the depth of the survey results. He cited the chart showing Eagle’s rapid population growth.
“The population increase was jarring,” Hunn said. “It added validation to the growing pains we are experiencing every day.”
Fellow board member Stephen Richards said he was pleased to see that the survey indicate that citizens are pleased with certain things the town is doing, such as adding trails.
“Eagle Ranch gave us more traffic problems, but it opened up things more and gave us more access,” Richards said.
The survey was sent out randomly to people in three specific groups: property owners, voters and businesses. Participants had the option of responding via the Internet, or filling out a paper survey.
A total of 2,659 surveys were sent out, with 724 surveys returned. The response rate was highest from the voter list, with a 32 percent response. There are also more than 100 pages of written responses, in which citizens offered their thoughts on everything from the condition of the current recycling facility to the types of retail businesses they would like to see in town.
“Voters are the group you need to pay the most attention to,” said surveyor Linda Venturoni, when she presented the survey results at a town board meeting last week.
Nearly half of the survey respondents had been residents of the town for five years or less.
She noted that the most important changes to emerge since the 2004 survey were concerns about traffic circulation and parking. The survey also reflected a demand for more affordable housing and continued open space acquisition.
Hunn said the emphasis on traffic issues was no surprise.
“That is a strong statement from all residents,” he said. “It’s a good thing we’re spending most of our capital improvements dollars on that problem.”
Most of the town’s capital spending for 2008 is targeted for road projects.
Venturoni said citizen concern about growth also stood out. In 2004, 46 percent of the survey respondents voiced a preference for less growth. By 2007, 61 percent of citizens were offering that response.
Citizens also had some suggestions about how to direct growth. Top-ranked suggestions included in-filling more densely within the existing town and encouraging affordable housing.
Richards noted that citizens were split about equally on whether they want regional shopping.
“A lot of people are neutral ” but they don’t want anything that will make traffic even worse,” he said.
Eagle Mayor Jon Stavney said the survey’s “tea leaves” regarding regional retail require some interpretation. He noted that responses indicate the majority of people shop for groceries in Eagle; clothing in Denver; sports equipment, office supplies, and hardware in Avon; and home furnishings in Glenwood and Denver.
“The list reads like a GPS map of big boxes (stores),” Stavney said.
One similarity to the 2004 survey was a high rating for sense of community. Venturoni said Eagle’s rankings on that issue is among the highest of the numerous mountain towns she surveys.
Stavney said he was pleased with the high rankings for quality of life, noting that half of the town’s residents have lived here five years or less.
“Those people come here for the reasons we know ” quality of life, family-oriented community, and more affordable housing,” he said. “We are experiencing growing pains that put a strain on those values.”