Vail Town Council takes a look into the future of the community | VailDaily.com

Vail Town Council takes a look into the future of the community

Transportation, housing and an events facility topped the council's to-do list for the five to 10 years

The Vail Town Council is looking beyond buses as it eyes ways to solve the town's transportation needs in the next five to 10 years.
The top of the list Vail council members Tuesday identified a handful of goals for the next five to 10 years, including:
  • Helping develop a “multi-modal” transit system for the valley.
  • Completing the Vail 2027 Housing Plan.
  • Creating a multi-purpose events facility.
  • Finding funds to pay for those goals.

VAIL — Local governments from time to time get together not to make decisions but to look into the future.

The Vail Town Council held its annual retreat Tuesday, which included several hours of identifying big parts of the town’s to-do list for the next five to 10 years.

Facilitator Greg Piburn of Leader’s Edge Consulting led the council through several exercises that worked toward ultimately identifying some of the biggest issues the town will have to tackle in the next five to 10 years.

Piburn started with the unknowable: What Vail might look like in 50 years. From there, Piburn asked council members and the town’s department managers to think about nearer-term issues.

Several council members said they’d like to someday see Interstate 70 through Vail either covered up or moved under Vail Mountain. Others said they saw Vail as a healthy escape for urban dwellers.

But talking about ways to get people to and from Vail from urban areas, Mayor Dave Chapin warned council members about the potential danger of high-speed rail.

“The fear is becoming a bedroom community for Denver,” Chapin said.

What’s possible?

Looking at the shorter term, Piburn had council members and department heads — the people who will ultimately have to make policy reality — spend some time looking at some of the town’s broader issues, ranging from transportation to housing to town facilities.

Ideas on those large paper sheets ranged from creating a year-round network of e-bikes for the town to a public purchase of the West Vail Mall.

Multiple council members identified the need to boost the town’s housing inventory. Multiple council members also identified the need for a multi-purpose events facility. That facility — in some form — is part of a recently adopted master plan for the Vail Town Center. That part of town encompasses the area roughly between Town Hall and the Vail Public Library, including the Lionshead Parking Structure.

Piburn noted that housing is the item on the future to-do list where success is easiest to measure.

But accomplishing any of the big-ticket items will require the town to collect more tax revenue. Those sources include increases in either the property, sales or lodging taxes. Any of those increases would require voter approval.

Chapin noted that the town needs to do a good bit of homework before putting any tax increase before voters. A survey last year showed that a majority opposed the idea of a sales tax to support government-funded housing efforts.

Chapin also asked if people paying sales or lodging taxes really care if they’re paying a bit more for goods or services.

Councilman Travis Coggin said he accepts sales taxes as part of purchases he makes. Whether voters agree is a different matter.

Maybe a lodging tax?

Mia Vlaar, the town’s economic development director, noted that lodging taxes generally don’t influence individual decisions about where to stay. But, she added, lodging taxes can influence group business.

On the other hand, Vail’s lodging tax has been set at 1.4% since it was created in 2000. A brief increase was supposed to fund a conference center, but that project eventually fizzled. The tax was repealed and the town eventually spent the money collected on improvements to Ford Park and the clubhouse at the Vail Golf Club.

And Vail’s lodging tax is among the lowest in the mountain resort area. Of communities with a lodging tax, only Beaver Creek and Winter Park charge a lower rate.

But increasing room nights is the primary rationale for building an events facility. Councilwoman Jenn Bruno noted that more people staying in town generates more sales tax revenue.

Still, Bruno said, voters “need to know exactly” where money from any tax increase would go.

Regardless of what happens with this vision for the near future, Vail resident Laurie Mullen — a member of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory County — complimented the council for the “visioning” session.

“I commend you for looking so far forward,” Mullen said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.