High cost of living is No. 1 issue for Garfield County residents | AspenTimes.com

High cost of living is No. 1 issue for Garfield County residents

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Garfield County residents say the high cost of living in the area is the most important issue facing the county in the next five years, according to the results of a recent survey. Affordable housing was second, the survey results show.

Besides cost of living and affordable housing, county residents rated traffic, preservation of the rural character of the county, water availability, preservation of open space and water and air quality as other top issues facing the county in the next five years.

“There is agreement to important issues facing the county in the next five years,” said Linda Ventroni, who conducted the survey for Garfield County.

There was a relative consensus among county residents to support zoning limitations and impact fees, and for the county to fund road system projects, develop affordable housing and acquire open space, Ventroni told Garfield County commissioners on Monday.

County officials sent out letters to thousands of residents in September asking them to participate in a survey to gauge their opinions on area land issues. Those will help shape the update to the county’s Comprehensive Plan, county officials have said.

The last time the county made alterations to the plan, which is essentially the basis for the county’s zoning map, came in 2000.

An executive summary of the survey results indicated that 1,048 residents completed it. At least 298 survey respondents are from the Glenwood Springs area, 221 are from the Carbondale area, 181 live near Rifle, 126 are from Parachute, 117 are from Silt and 105 are from New Castle, according to the executive summary.

The following are some of the survey’s results:

– About 92.4 percent of survey respondents want to assess an impact fee on all new oil and gas development to help pay for road improvements in the county. The county has assessed an impact fee on new residential development for the last 10 years.

“That is pretty shocking,” Ventroni said of the 92.4 percent figure. “It is very unusual to see 90 percent of support for anything.”

– A near majority of survey respondents across the county want to see less growth in Garfield County. Another quarter of respondents want to see about the “same rate of growth as at the present.” About 13 percent of those who completed the survey want to see more growth, but with some controls. About 10 percent of survey respondents want to see zero growth.

– The survey results also indicated that 33.7 percent of the survey respondents had a very unfavorable view of oil and gas development. About 41.9 percent of residents from the Carbondale area and 27 percent of respondents in the Rifle area had a very unfavorable view of oil and gas development.

Commissioner John Martin and others expressed doubts about the survey’s results. That centered around the concern that people who responded may not have background on county issues for the questions they answered, especially those centering around impact fees. He also showed concern that the county received the input from only 1,048 people out of the 22,622 who were asked to complete the survey.

“I am trying to find some comfort in the survey itself,” Martin said.

David Pesnichak, a senior planner for the county and who has been working on the survey, said the goal of the survey wasn’t to measure what residents know about their county but how it looks to them.

“Trying to measure what people know about Garfield county is a whole nother survey,” he said.

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