July sales tax sets record
Mt. Crested Butte continues to see increases in monthly sales tax revenues over last year, with July collections coming in 8.7 percent above what they were 12 months ago. “We’re still not anywhere near winter collections, but for a summer month that’s pretty good,” Town Manager Joe Fitzpatrick told the council on Tuesday, September 20. “Last year was a good year and we ended up $10,944 above that.”
This July, the town collected $135,676 on more than $2.7 million in taxable sales, which is the biggest collection for the month in the history of Mt. Crested Butte and 34 percent above an 11-year average.
Fitzpatrick said retail sales were up 30.5 percent and lodging jumped up 14.6 percent, while the restaurant sector saw a modest 5.6 percent rise in sales.
“There was a lot happening in town in July. We had quite a few weddings, the zip line was a new attraction and this year there was better mountain biking,” Fitzpatrick said. “It seems people in Colorado are traveling in Colorado. And things are starting to work a little bit up here. There’s more to look at than just an empty base area before heading back to town.”
While it’s still too early to gauge accurately, Fitzpatrick is optimistic about a busy August that is spilling into September. “This weekend was nuts,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a weekend at the end of September in town like that, ever.”
Utility work at town hall ongoing
The improvements being made to the town’s recreation path have laid siege to the Mt. Crested Butte town offices, while utilities beneath the parking lot like electric and gas are being moved in what is the most expensive piece in the project.
The current phase of the project, budgeted for $800,000, will extend the rec path from Marcellina Lane to Winterset Drive and it’s looking like some of the work will have to wait until spring.
While the work underground and the retaining wall below Gothic Road will likely be completed before the snow flies, the curb and gutter work might get done, and it might not. Paving will definitely wait until the ground thaws next year.
Fitzpatrick said in addition to being the most expensive piece of the project, “This is the most expensive piece and dangerous part of the project, with the curve on the road right there.”
The work to the town’s rec path was initiated with an investment from the town in hopes that the commitment will lead to a Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant down the road. First Fitzpatrick has to secure several easements for the path, which is a process he says is under way.
“Once that part is finished we can go out and look for GOCO money and I think it will help that we have some money invested in the project so far,” Fitzpatrick said. “With all of this, including the design work, we’re about $900,000 into this thing.”
With work extending beyond what had originally been proposed, “[The budget] is really going to get tight,” he said. “We’re really getting beaten up by the decrease in valuation. That drop has hurt our capital budget.”
The town’s property valuation, which saw declines of as much as 30 percent this year, is a big part of the equation that determines how much the town collects for the capital budget.
Support of library tax proposal not unanimous
Larry Meredith, executive director of the Gunnison County Library District, went to the council to ask for members’ support in pursuing a ballot measure to increase library funding through a tax increase this November.
As he has done elsewhere in the community in the campaign to build support, Meredith framed the case for the extra funding in terms of the community benefit libraries provide people who can’t always access books, magazines or technology in other ways.
Overall, the council was in favor of writing a letter of support for the initiative, but Councilman Chris Morgan made a case for his “no” vote on the measure, telling Meredith the district’s intention is good, but the timing is bad.
“I frequently visit the county libraries, both in Crested Butte as well as in Gunnison. I check out a lot of audio books … and the library has been able to get books from libraries in Washington and Idaho… I support what you do,” Morgan admitted. “I just can’t support it right now.”
At the same time the Library District is asking Gunnison County voters to approve a ballot measure allowing for an increased mill levy to cover construction and operating costs. Morgan said he knew of families facing declining incomes and people barely hanging on to life in the valley.
For those small business owners trying to make it, Morgan said, the additional $250 a year is just too much.
Meredith said he appreciated Morgan’s honesty, but asked him to consider how much money he saves each year by going to the library for the books he admitted to checking out.
“I understand,” Morgan said, “and in another year I would agree with that. But not right now. I’m sorry.”
Several members said they understood where Morgan was coming from but the council ultimately passed a resolution to support the Library District’s ballot measure.
Wildhorse gets time to make case
After the town of Mt. Crested Butte issued a Nuisance Abatement Notice for several lots in the Wildhorse Subdivision along Appaloosa Road and Stetson Drive, where a half-dozen foundations sit open and undeveloped, the lots’ new owners will get a chance to explain the situation before the council on October 4.
Wildhorse LLC built the foundations after the town issued the developer the necessary permits in 2008. Then the big concrete-lined holes were left to await construction, just as building in the area started to slow down. Now neighboring property owners are left to look at the undeveloped lots as safety hazards and a detriment to property values.
“Now we don’t allow [foundation-only permits] anymore to avoid problems such as these,” community development coordinator Carlos Velado told the council. “And this does qualify as a nuisance.”
Complicating the matter, the properties were noticed for foreclosure on August 31 and the new owner, Wildhorse Denver Partners, LLC, wants a new start.
At a meeting on Tuesday, September 20, the council considered extending a public hearing on the Nuisance Abatement Notice so Wildhorse Denver Partners, who learned about the notice last week, could prepare for the meeting and avoid action by the town.
Local attorney David Leinsdorf, representing the Wildhorse Homeowners Association, opposed the continuance, saying the ordinance sets a short timeline for reasons of expediency, but said he understood if a postponement was necessary.
“I would urge the council not to allow the public hearing to be postponed beyond its next public meeting on October 4. There’s a reason the town’s own ordinance has a very short time frame in dealing with nuisances,” he said. “Nuisances damage other property and that’s what we think applies here.”
Leinsdorf said there are two issues from the Wildhorse HOA’s perspective: safety and aesthetics. “There are multiple ways to deal with both of those issues. I don’t think my client is going to tell you how to address safety and aesthetics as long as you can accomplish both goals,” he said, adding that he had also heard or been told of concerns from the Prospect Homeowners Association and Crested Butte Mountain Resort.
Velado said Wildhorse Partners Denver had been told of the concerns about safety and “financial implications, from having these exposed, unfinished foundations, to the adjacent property owners” associated with the property. He added that the property’s new owner had been told what would be expected and that their representatives would be ready to address the council’s concerns October 4.
While the council acknowledged the need to get the foundations closed in quickly, they also felt they needed to hear what Wildhorse Denver Partners had in mind. The public hearing will continue at the council’s first meeting in October.