Affordable and adequate housing for employees has been identified as a top priority by respondents to the Town of Vail’s latest community outreach efforts. The housing topic was prominently noted in the town’s biennial survey conducted in March as well as a new “Employer-Employee” survey, also fielded in the spring. Together, the surveys recorded the opinions of more than 2,000 respondents. When asked to evaluate nine topics of interest to elected officials and staff, a focus on “housing for middle income and service worker households in vital support roles” topped the list. Rounding out the top five using the combined survey results were: parking opportunities for residents, economic vitality, environmental sustainability and transportation needs. The findings were presented to the Town Council on June 21 by the research firm RRC Associates.
In particular, results from the employer-employee survey indicate that problems exist for businesses and the workforce. For example, 88 percent of responding businesses called affordable housing either “one of the more serious problems” or the “most critical problem in the region.” Similarly, many open-ended comments offered by employees described the difficulties in locating available housing and the challenges associated with affordability of both rental and for-sale properties. About 48 percent of the Vail residents surveyed said they expect to stay in their current residence for the next two years, with 30 percent interested in a different location and 22 percent anticipating moving outside the county. Only 14 percent of those living elsewhere in the county said they expect to move away.
In addition to listing housing as a priority, respondents to the town’s biennial survey expressed support for various techniques to help improve the situation in Vail. These include increasing the requirement for contributing to workforce housing among developers, permitting required housing to be built down-valley, requiring a contribution to workforce housing for residential development and permitting increased density in limited locations or circumstances. All four techniques received larger shares of supportive respondents than unsupportive respondents.
The topic of parking was also probed in which respondents shared concerns, ideas and constructive suggestions. On the operational side, various aspects of parking operations received high ratings including booth attendant courtesy and structure cleanliness, while the price of parking received low satisfaction ratings. When asked if there is enough parking in summer and in winter, 70 percent indicated there is enough parking in summer while only 19 percent said there is enough parking in winter. Support for summer parking fees was low with only 12 percent in favor, compared to 79 percent against.
When asked about environmental sustainability program focus areas, respondents placed high importance on actions to protect and enhance Gore Creek, recycling and waste reduction, renewable energy projects in town and dark sky protections. Expanding plastic bag regulations is a relatively controversial issue based on survey results, with roughly equal shares identifying it as “important” and “unimportant.”
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,” 64 percent said “right direction” which was identical to the 2014 survey, while 18 percent indicated Vail is on the “wrong track,” compared to 22 percent in 2014.
The survey also contained a set of questions designed to evaluate satisfaction with accountability and outreach by the town. A series of four questions asked respondents to report their satisfaction with the local government in terms of providing information to citizens about what the local government is doing, offering public engagement opportunities, being collaborative in the decision-making process, and, in a new question this year, the approachability of staff and Town Council members. On a 5-point scale with 5 being the highest, average responses showed general satisfaction, with local government earning a 4.0 average on approachability of staff and Town Council and a 3.9 average on both providing information to citizens and offering public engagement opportunities. A majority of respondents rated these categories as a 4 or 5. Respondents were slightly less satisfied with the local government’s collaborative qualities, giving collaboration an average score of 3.3. The collaborative aspect of decision-making was noted as a relative weakness expressed throughout the survey results.
In rating their satisfaction with a variety of municipal services with 5 being “very satisfied,” the highest scores were given to the following categories:
- Courtesy and helpfulness of firefighters and fire prevention staff, 4.6
- Vail Public Library satisfaction, 4.6
- Cleanliness of pedestrian villages, 4.5
- Response times to basic medical emergencies, 4.5
- Overall park maintenance, 4.4
- Dependability of bus service, 4.4
- Overall feeling of safety and security, 4.4
- Ease of parking in summer, 4.4
- Snow removal on roads, 4.4
- Friendliness and courteous attitude of Public Works employees, 4.3
- Friendliness and approachability of Vail Police Department employees, 4.3
- Bus driver courtesy, 4.3
- Cleanliness of buses, 4.3
- Booth attendant courtesy, 4.3
- Atmosphere/sense of safety on buses, 4.2
- Frequency of in-town shuttle, 4.2
- Wildfire mitigation efforts, 4.2
- Cleanliness of public restrooms, 4.2
- Overall quality of service (police services), 4.2
- Crime prevention, 4.2
- Knowledge/ability to answer questions (Community Development), 4.2
Ratings for the Community Development Department are particularly noteworthy, which recorded its highest levels of satisfaction ever, including ratings for its building review process.
Relatively lower rated municipal services included:
- Overflow Vail Frontage Road Parking (safety), 2.9
- Ease of parking in winter, 2.9
- Overall parking fees/pricing structure, 2.9
- Overflow Vail Frontage Road parking (convenience/ease of access), 3.0
The survey also contained a series of questions concerning events in Vail. Overall, a strong majority of respondents say events create a positive experience in Vail with about 81 percent rating events a 4 or 5 on a five-point scale. Part-time residents view events slightly more favorably, 84 percent, than year-round residents, 76 percent. Most, 79 percent, say the town holds “about the right number” of events. Ten percent indicate there are “too many,” while 12 percent think here are “too few.” Respondents also indicate high satisfaction for a variety of aspects of events that were evaluated including overall quality of events, event venue options and bus transportation.
A new question was added this year to ask for opinions on the addition of a sizable enclosed space to support cultural and community activities and events. Respondents were split. Roughly equal shares identified such a facility as important, 47 percent, versus unimportant, 46 percent. An additional eight percent didn’t know.
In commenting on the survey results, RRC noted the significant number of survey responses received this year. In particular, the large data set, representing strong response from younger workers to the employer-employee survey, contains input from an important segment of the community, according to the report. In open-ended comments these workers addressed the challenges of working in Vail given factors such as housing costs and availability, parking and transit services. Some also commented that their services were under valued and that they didn’t feel that they were respected members of the community. At the other end of the age spectrum, a portion of the oldest respondents that are part-time residents indicated strong interest in retiring in Vail in the next few years. These owners will change the use of their unit from seasonal/part-time to more year-round residency, according to the research. As noted by the RRC team, these residents will likely create new demands for various community services in the future.
Overall, the evaluations reflect generally positive sentiment with notable improvement in some ratings. Additionally, the hundreds of written comments in response to "open-ended" questions provide constructive suggestions, particularly in priority areas such as housing, parking and the environment that can be used by the Town as Vail in its future planning.
Vail Community Survey 2016 Report
2016 Employer/Employee Survey Results
Contact: Suzanne Silverthorn
Community Information Office