Vail Valley Voices: What to do about parking in Vail? | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Voices: What to do about parking in Vail?

Vail Homeowners Association
Vail, CO, Colorado

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report for July. The Daily publishes weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town. The newsletter electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com.

Parking and economic vitality lead the list of concerns in a recent survey of community residents and property owners by the town of Vail. Affordable housing has slipped from the top position it has held in similar surveys over the past several years.

The association observes that both parking and affordable housing are secondary to the relative state of the community’s economic strength. Neither can be viewed correctly when separated from economic conditions.

Whether the community survey is an accurate reflection of community sentiment is a matter of conjecture. Of more than 7,000 local and part-time residents who were sent notices to participate in the survey, only 580 responded.

Affordable housing receding in political importance: Affordable housing to many, as confirmed in the town’s survey, is no longer as crucial to economic development as it was before the advent of the recession.

As long as the construction and development labor force continues to shrink, the supply of rental housing will remain liquid.

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Likewise, if the absorption rate of unsold real estate continues to be sluggish and financing standards for mortgages remain arduous, the cost of housing, rental or otherwise, may well continue to become more competitively priced.

Should the town of Vail move ahead with the Timber Ridge seasonal affordable-housing project, in spite of its aesthetic shortcomings, it could additionally saturate the rental affordable-housing market for the foreseeable future and perhaps also further drive down labor costs.

These are unintended consequences that some affordable-housing advocates say are well worth the risk. Others believe it will rid the town of Vail of a significant portion of its outstanding debt.

Parking demand in transition: The perception of the need for more parking is understandable when economic conditions are on the downside. Eagle County residents under stress from high levels of underemployment have to stretch their paychecks.

Business interests are under pressure to augment the recession frugality of destination guests by attracting the even more cost-conscious regional “drive” market. The combination of the two results in hundreds of cars parked along the frontage roads,

which cause some to say that Vail looks like a truck stop.

If it chooses, the town can control parking without building more expensive parking structures. New destination-guest housing doesn’t require as much public parking as day visitors and workers. Evolving economic and local employment conditions over the next two years could alter current demand significantly.

The Town Council is reviewing its options to provide more parking, including doing nothing. The Colorado Department of Transportation is putting pressure on the town of Vail to take over ownership, or it will cut off frontage-road parking altogether.

Negotiations are under way to circumvent an all-or-nothing outcome. The Town Council is considering closing frontage-road parking for the remainder of the summer.

More parking or more buses? Building more public parking structures to meet the projected demand of 400 ski-season parking spaces is expensive. The cost is $30 million to $40 million for an extension to the Lionshead parking structure or building a new parking structure on Ford Park.

A cheaper $18 million surface parking lot in Ford Park to add 100 cars would mean relocating the tennis courts elsewhere and losing an acre of highly valued park land to asphalt.

Town parking studies indicate that the demand for overflow summer parking can be solved by providing better facilities for shuttle bus service to Ford Park from the Vail Village and Lionshead parking structures.

Ever Vail can fill the gap, But to whose benefit and when? The other parking option public officials are wrestling with is whether to approve Ever Vail. If it is approved, the developer, Vail Resorts, would provide the needed 400 winter parking spaces. Ever Vail is a new residential and commercial portal to Vail Mountain. There is no date certain when the Ever Vail parking would be provided, as it is dependent upon economic conditions.

Public officials are reluctant to approve the project with several open-ended issues remaining under speculation. Some prefer inducing Vail Resorts to help pay for the cost of building another parking structure elsewhere, which according to informed observers is not likely to occur.