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Snow storage lot purchased for town near Third Street and Elk Avenue

Town using its power of clairvoyance?

by Mark Reaman

The Crested Butte Town Council spent most of its parking-in-lieu fund along with some additional sales tax revenue for a vacant lot located just off the downtown core of town.

The council passed an ordinance to spend $837,250 on the lot located across from Marchitelli’s Gourmet Noodle behind Pita’s at Third and Elk. It will be used primarily for snow storage in the winter and parking in the summer. Councilman Chris Ladoulis voted against the move.

The town spent $560,000 of its $569,000 parking-in-lieu fund and added on $277,250 plus closing costs from its sales tax fund, which grew with unexpected sales tax revenue in 2015.

Parking-in-lieu is collected when a business responsible for providing physical parking spaces in Crested Butte pays a fee to the town instead. That money is then earmarked for parking improvements in town.

The staff strongly recommended the purchase of the lot given the disappearing empty lots on which to store snow, especially in the downtown area of Crested Butte. This lot acquisition will allow the town to leave snow there during a storm and come back and haul it away to a more permanent storage area days later. If that lot had not been purchased, the town would have been forced to hire a local contractor to move the snow on storm nights. That was expected to cost about $160,000 a winter.

“This lot has been used for many years and is critical for our snow plan,” explained town manager Todd Crossett. “We had an appraisal done and it came back at $850,000. We expect it will provide about 14 parking spaces in the summer.”

“That lot carries all the snow from the alleys in the area,” added town public works director Rodney Due. “This is a critical lot to keep the core clear. The numbers show a six-year payback compared to contracting a hauling crew. It sounds expensive but property is expensive in Crested Butte.”

Originally listed for $1 million, the town staff told the council in a memo, “The town has acquired several pieces of property in the past that, when acquired, may have appeared financially questionable but proved to be clairvoyant in retrospect.”

Councilperson Roland Mason asked if it might be better for the town to spend the money on purchasing its own hauling equipment to address the situation. Due said the town had plenty of equipment but was having trouble finding qualified workers.

Councilperson Laura Mitchell asked who was paying the real estate transfer tax on the deal. Town finance director Lois Rozman explained that since the government was buying the property, the RETT was waived.

“That’s how we got to the lower price,” said Due.

“I agree with the reasoning behind this but feel we are reacting as opposed to thinking ahead,” said Ladoulis. “I think we spent a lot of money on legal and not enough on real estate professionals. I don’t like the process we went through so that’s why I will vote against this.”

And he did, with the ordinance approving the purchase passing 6-1.

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