Overall, residents are happy with their life and services provided in Chanhassen, according to the latest community survey results released in December.
The Community Survey, which has been administered every three years since 2005, was conducted in partnership with the National Research Center between Nov. 13, 2019 and Dec. 27, 2019. The results were released to the public this spring. Some of the results, including responses on potential park bond referendums, were discussed during a council work session in mid-March. However, because of the pandemic, discussion of the full survey was deprioritized and delayed until December, said Assistant City Manager Jake Foster.
The city surveyed over 40 features of the community, such as safety, mobility, economy, education, environment and overall quality of life. The data is then compared with national benchmarks and other participating cities similar to Chanhassen.
Because the survey was conducted in 2019, two hot topics of 2020 — the pandemic and police reform — were not included.
Of the 691 respondents, 95% of residents rated the city as an excellent or good place to live. Overall, residents praised the city’s parks and recreation, community safety and mobility and identified safety, natural environment and the economy as major priorities in the coming years.
Though it may not have covered every subject, the survey gave a good overview of the pulse of the city and will be useful for the council's future planning in January, said Mayor Elise Ryan.
“When the new council and city staff conduct our strategic planning sessions, we’ll be utilizing these responses to align our goals and plans with the feedback we hear from our residents,” Ryan said. “We want to continue to be the best city we can be and provide the services our residents need.
The city identified three major points from the survey.
1. Residents enjoy parks and recreation activities and support new improvements.
The city’s parks and recreation department was the standout of the community survey. Almost every topic surveyed was rated higher than the national average, with residents praising fitness, recreational, health and wellness opportunities and the quality of city parks.
Chanhassen has historically given very positive ratings to the parks and recreation department, but it’s always good news to hear, said Park and Recreation Director Jerry Ruegemer.
Additionally, most residents supported tax levies or increases that would improve community resources like parks and equipment.
Eight out of 10 residents supported an annual tax levy of $250,000 to fund city park repair and refurbishment, which would equate to around $22 a year per household. Eight out of 10 also supported a property tax increase of approximately $5 a year to make improvements to community parks.
While the city’s long-term financial plan is still in the works, projects like the Lake Ann Preserve improvements, which was specifically mentioned in the survey, are a high priority in the parks department, Ruegemer added.
“It’s always good news that it’s looked upon favorably. We can put our thoughts together and see how we can potentially fund these projects that are important to our residents,” Ruegemer said.
2. Residents feel safe in their community.
Safety rankings have stayed consistent since 2016. Overall, 97% of respondents reported overall feeling safe in Chanhassen, which is higher than the national benchmark.
Nine in ten residents positively rated police, fire and emergency services, with crime prevention rating higher than the national average. Only about one out of ten surveyed said they reported a crime.
3. Mobility ratings are high, but services are declining.
Mobility encompasses a wide range of street and travel-related community services. Many ranked higher than national benchmarks, such as ease of travel, path and walking trail availability, public parking and ease of walking.
However, many mobility service rankings fell from their 2016 highs. Snow removal, transit services and sidewalk maintenance ratings declined, while street cleaning, repair and lighting dropped by around 10 percentage points each.
Around half of respondents reported using alternative methods of transportation at least once a month. Fifty-eight percent said they’ve walked or biked instead of driving, 43% said they carpooled and 26% said they used public transportation.
Happy to be here
Sixty-five percent of respondents have lived in Chanhassen for at least six years, and 9 out of 10 respondents plan on living in the community for the next five years. Sixty-eight percent reported a household income of at least $100,000, and 95% are white.
Almost all residents rated the city as an excellent/good place to live and raise a family, with 7 out of 10 noting Chanhassen as a good place to retire. Most would recommend Chanhassen to someone who asked.
While the majority of city economic health scores have remained high, several have decreased by at least 10 percentage points since 2016. Only 48% positively rated the availability of affordable housing, down from 61% in 2016, and cost of living ratings decreased from 61% to 51%.
Affordability is a topic the council has been made aware of, and the survey results will help inform their direction during strategic planning, Foster said.
Another point of interest? Attitude — 63% of residents positively rated Chanhassen as open and accepting toward people of diverse backgrounds. The number is consistent with the national benchmark, the survey said.
Residents also stressed the importance of mental wellness and healthcare. Two out of 3 positively rated the availability of affordable, quality mental health care, and 71% said information about available resources is very important. 65% also support mental illness/wellness trainings to help identify and support those with mental health issues.
Overall, the numbers have remained positive toward Chanhassen.
“That 95% number is great to hear. There’s always room for improvement — now, we just have to figure out the 5% that didn’t feel that way,” Ryan said.