Vail seeks to clean up Gore Creek by cleaning up the town code |

Vail seeks to clean up Gore Creek by cleaning up the town code

Town’s Planning and Environmental Commission works on policies to clean up waterway

A child's foot is seen in a Gore Creek tributary on June 19, 2019. The crystal clear waters of Gore Creek may look pristine, but the creek has been on a state list of impaired waters since 2013 for declining aquatic life.
John LaConte |

VAIL — The town’s Planning and Environmental Commission is working to clean up the town code and, in the process, hoping the work could help clean up the town’s main waterway. 

The idea is to remove a selection of redundant definitions and add others not there currently, like the word “pervious,” which is important to the efforts set forth in the town’s Gore Creek Strategic Plan. 

Adopted in 2016, the plan seeks to reduce pollutants and interrupt the transport pathways, otherwise known as impervious surfaces, which carry those pollutants into Gore Creek and its tributaries. In 2013 Gore Creek ended up on a state list of impaired waterways due to declines in aquatic life in the area.

Town of Vail code currently stipulates that hardscape surfaces such as walks, decks, patios, terraces and water features can be considered landscape area as long as they do not exceed 20% of the landscape area. The amended version, currently under consideration, would say pervious core development such as walks, decks, patios, terraces and underground parking structures not occupying more than 20% of the landscaped area may be utilized to meet the landscape requirement. 

The key word there is “pervious,” which would be defined in the new code as a surface that allows the infiltration of water into the underlying soil. Pervious surfaces include grass, mulched groundcover, planted areas and permeable paving. 

Forthcoming nonconforming

The commission tabled the code amendments at its last meeting, referencing concerns from local planner Dominic Mauriello, who wrote that current definition allows 20% of landscaping to be impervious surfaces and that requiring them to be pervious surfaces will make many properties nonconforming. 

“It’s only going to come into play upon redevelopment,” said town planner Ashley Clark. “You cannot exacerbate, or make the existing nonconformity worse. If you have a backyard patio that’s concrete and you want to re-landscape and change things around, there’s a material that you can replace, so you can be conforming.”

‘Important first step, but …’

Commissioner Brian Stockmar said it’s part of a larger goal to look at the bigger picture of where water is coming from, where it is going and how to prevent toxic water from entering the creek. 

“And the answer to that, I think, is very much involved in design and construction,” he said. “This is an important first step, but isn’t there a much bigger step that we should be taking, and that’s really re-examining some of our codes to ensure that construction and design follow the concepts that we’re talking about today.”

Clark said the effort to align the code with the Gore Creek Action Plan is like turning a ship.  

“This is a very small, small, moving of the ship,” Clark said. “If we can’t get here, what does it mean for the larger master plan, and getting those goals?”

The commission will take up the issue again on Aug. 12. 

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