Vail Daily column: Parking remains a problem
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a report by the Vail Homeowners Association board of directors. The association keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the Vail community. The electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com.
Transportation Improvements: Planned transportation improvements include a host of improvements and upgrades to the Frontage roads: including new and improved roundabouts, turn lanes and medians ($61 million), improvements to and new pedestrian walks ($23 million), lighting improvements ($5 million) and improved bus stops ($3 million). The plan is so far-reaching that it intends to recoup Vail’s $9 million investment in the Simba Run Underpass. Not included in the transportation improvements are any funds for additional structured parking or additional mass transit. If approved, as presently planned, then it will surpass the Housing Plan for the largest public works program in Vail’s history.
The final plans for financing this massive program are scheduled to be adopted this summer; even though there has yet to be an effort to have extensive public input. While details remain to be finalized, the broad outlines of a so-called “impact fee” are already in place and have raised serious questions. Impact fees are imposed to mitigate the impact of a project on surrounding infrastructure and the community. Taken to their logical extension, every project would have to pay such a fee, because every project affects the community in some way, but, traditionally, communities have used tax financing to develop infrastructure and capital improvements.
In its present iteration, the new impact fees have no time limit on their duration. And, while only $41 million of the total cost is projected to come from impact fees (the balance of $54 million is scheduled to come directly from town revenues), it is still a huge amount to be imposed on future development within the town. This could be in the job-killing magnitude. Thus, while development went on in the town for years, achieving essentially maximum build-out, it is only future development that is to be burdened with these transportation improvements; even though, the entire community will benefit.
Clearly, at least some of the proposed improvements are needed or desirable; others are, at best, questionable, like the recovery of expenditures on the Simba Run Underpass. Approval of these plans should be a public, transparent process with full provision for public input. The same should be the case for any proposed impact fee. Any such fee must be carefully calibrated so as not to unduly burden future development in the town, and for those portions to be funded by the town, there should be public discussion of Vail’s financial ability to undertake such commitments.
Parking: The availability of public parking is another of Vail’s most pressing problems, as the use of frontage roads for overflow parking continues to be the town’s number-one public safety issue. For years, Vail has had a $4.3 million commitment from Vail Resorts to provide more parking, but gridlock has prevented any forward movement toward solutions. Now, it is estimated that it could cost as much as $150 million to bring Vail’s parking facilities up-to-date. As Vail has pointed out, much work needs to be done. Unfortunately, Vail is no closer to solving its parking needs than it was 10 years ago, and in the meantime, it continues to rely on frontage roads for overflow parking with all of the attendant public safety issues. At the same time, the present Vail and Lionshead structures are in need of rehabilitation, and serious issues face mass transit within the town and the county. These are matters that cry out for solution. It is, as yet, unclear whether the Transportation Task Force will take up these challenges. The Vail Homeowners Association urges that it should be leading to the development of a comprehensive plan for parking, mass transit and a unified management of all transportation activities.
What You Can Do: If these are matters that concern you, then get informed and become involved. Government responds to the public; silence only enables others with different agendas to act in your absence. If you are not already a member, then join the Vail Homeowners Association. Together, we will continue to shine a spotlight on these issues that concern everyone.
The Vail Homeowners Association Board is Gail Ellis, president; Judith Berkowitz, secretary; Rob Ford, treasurer; and directors Jamie Duke, John Gorsuch, John Lohre, Andres Nevares, Trygve Myhren, Larry Stewart and Doug Tansill.
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