Environmental sustainability efforts and housing opportunities have been identified as high priorities for the Vail Town Council to consider in the coming months according to respondents who took part in the Town of Vail community survey which was circulated during the spring. The survey findings were presented to the Town Council on June 19 by the research firm RRC Associates which also included an overview of department and service ratings.
The survey was conducted in an online and mail-back format during March and April and generated 1,071 responses. Participants included full-time residents, part-time residents, business owners, commuters and other interested parties.
The topics of housing and environmental sustainability were frequently identified as community priorities throughout the survey. They were listed as the top two priorities from among 11 topics as well as a financial prioritization exercise in which respondents were asked to allocate $100 across six categories to best reflect their priorities. The two topics accounted for 50 percent of the spending, with environmental sustainability, which includes “waste and recycling, wildlife habitat, climate change, Gore Creek restoration and energy efficiency,” receiving an average allocation of $26 followed by expanded housing opportunities “for a wide range of household incomes and resort community occupations,” receiving $24. The next highest allocation, $14, was for transportation improvements “to address needs through bus service in Vail.”
The topic of parking was also raised by respondents in a number of ways with concerns expressed about lack of available parking, pricing, the appropriateness of parking on the Frontage Road and discussions about the future prospects of paid summer parking.
Among the environmental measures receiving strong community support was the category of“recycling and waste reduction” in which 83 percent of the respondents offered a score of 4 or 5 (important/most important). There is also strong support for continued action to address the health of Gore Creek, including adoption of a watershed protection ordinance. Relatively less support was given by respondents on the topic of “climate change action and advocacy” with 58 percent rating it important/very important.
In exploring wildfire mitigation approaches, high support was given to facilitate the creation of defensible space with 87 percent supportive/very supportive of design standards, such as using deciduous trees in place of conifers, up from 82 percent in 2016. In a related question on how prepared respondents are in the event of a catastrophic emergency event, only one in ten indicated they’re “extremely prepared” with many respondents receptive to receiving more information on the topic.
In addition to identifying housing as a priority, survey respondents expressed support for various techniques to help improve the situation in Vail. Most favorable is support for identifying and financially supporting opportunities for regional partnerships to construct new deed-restricted housing outside of town boundaries (76 percent support). Opinions were more divided on a question that addressed support for opportunities to increase the supply of deed-restricted housing within the town by allowing increases in residential density in appropriate locations or circumstances (60 percent support).
In probing the topic of short-term rental impacts in Vail, nearly three-quarters of respondents think the loss of long-term rental housing is problematic. Of those, 19 percent think it’s a “critical problem,” 30 percent a “serious problem” and 28 percent a “moderate problem.” Twelve percent think it’s one of the regions “lesser problems” and 11 percent “don’t think it’s a problem at all.”
Regarding the overall direction of the town, respondents were generally supportive. When asked if the town is going in the “right direction” or had “gotten off on the wrong track,” 61 percent of respondents said “right direction,” down from 63 percent in 2016. Topics mentioned by the 24 percent of respondents who said the town was on the “wrong track” included rent-by-owner concerns, frustrations with parking and difficulties associated with the cost of housing.
Many of those who said Vail is going in the “right direction” commented on their satisfaction with town services, feeling that the town is working hard to address important issues. The quality of events was also mentioned favorably as well as efforts to improve the appearance of town buildings and infrastructure and transportation improvements, among others.
In addition, the survey contained a set of questions designed to evaluate satisfaction with accountability and outreach by the town. While scores improved in all four categories from 2016, the 2018 ratings continued to be lower than most of the other town departments. Ratings for being “collaborative in the decision-making process” was the lowest-rated attribute with a score of 3.6 on a 5 point scale, but most improved from 2016 when a 3.3 rating was given. The score for “approachability of staff and Town Council members” was 4.2 in 2018 compared to 4.0; “providing information to citizens” was 4.1 in 2018 compared to 3.9 and “offering public engagement opportunities” was also 4.1 in 2018 compared to 3.9 in 2016.
In evaluating their satisfaction with a variety of municipal services with 5 being “very satisfied,” average ratings improved from 2016 with a few exceptions in which ratings remained unchanged. The highest scores were given to the following categories:
- Cleanliness of pedestrian villages, 4.7
- Dependability of bus service, 4.7
- Courtesy and helpfulness of fire department staff, 4.7
- Overall satisfaction with Vail Public Library, 4.7
- Response times to emergency incidents, 4.6
- Overall feeling of safety and security, 4.6
- Overall park maintenance, 4.6
- Friendliness and courteous attitude of public works employees, 4.6
- Snow removal on roads, 4.6
- Cleanliness of buses, 4.6
- Atmosphere/sense of safety on buses, 4.6
- Cleanliness of public restrooms, 4.5
- Friendliness and approachability of Vail Police Department, 4.5
- Bus driver courtesy, 4.5
- Frequency of in-town shuttle, 4.5
Relatively lower rated municipal services included:
- Overall parking fees/pricing structure, 3.0
- Overall Vail Frontage Road parking (safety), 3.3
- Overall Frontage Road parking (convenience/ease of access), 3.4
- Ease of parking in winter, 3.4
The survey also contained a series of questions concerning events in Vail. Overall, a strong majority of residents say events create a positive experience in Vail with about 81 percent rating events on a 4 or 5 on a five-point scale. Additionally, most respondents, 79 percent, indicate that the town holds “about the right number” of events. Thirteen percent indicate there are “too many events” while eight percent think there are “too few.” The scores are similar to 2016.
In response to several new survey questions, respondents offered overwhelming support for a community visioning initiative, more than half would be in favor of creating a bike share program with fewer supporting a car share program.
The third-party consultants that assisted the town also emphasized the power of the open-ended comments received from the Vail community. Respondents took time to deliver over 6,000 written messages that include a wide range of suggestions and opinions addressing issues and opportunities. These comments have been organized to assist town staff and decision-makers to consider verbatim input on a wide variety of topics as Vail looks to the future.
The full report from RRC Associates is available HERE.