I have to tip my cap to Mt. Crested Butte councilmember Chris Morgan. It’s not easy for any politician to come out against a library expansion. But let’s be honest; he makes a valid point about timing. He is not wrong when he points out that people are hurting in this economy and the addition of even a few hundred dollars in taxes is difficult. It is harder and harder for the working class to live here. Proponents make a good point that now is the time a library is most needed. And this library system does a great job. Valid positions, both.
Frankly, in fatter times, this tax proposal to fund an expansion of the pubic library would be a slam-dunk. This year, not so much. I’m hearing that voters will have to really think before casting their vote. Timing is everything and people will be looking closely at the arguments made in the next month to support this bond and mill levy. I too have some issues with the timing, mill levy amount and costs of the project. I’m a fan of libraries and I’m also a fan of the middle class being able to afford to live in this valley.
The Library Board will be sending a representative to answer questions at the Crested Butte News Election Forum on Thursday, October 20. That will be helpful. But the honest reality is a lot of people just don’t have an extra couple hundred bucks right now to pay an increase in property taxes. Hard to believe we are living in times when we are debating the merits of a better library, for goodness sakes. Reality bites sometimes.
Speaking of costs that really impact people and this community: Are town building fees a smart way to plan for the future or a deterrent to a big part of the economy—that being construction? That is a question the Crested Butte Town Council is re-grappling with now that affordable housing fees are slapping people in the face.
Commercial projects are on the hook for huge amounts of money for affordable housing if they don’t build actual units. Even public projects like a Center for the Arts expansion could see an addition of more than a million dollars to the project. If fees aren’t reduced (and they look like they will be to some extent in the next few months), the Crested Butte library expansion could get tagged for $120,000 in affordable housing fees.
Let’s think about it. These fees are ultimately meant to provide housing for future workers. Workers who aren’t yet here. But workers who are here now are hoping for work to pay this month’s mortgage or rent—especially construction workers where it’s a bit lean at the moment.
One small 260 square-foot expansion on Elk Avenue this summer cost the proprietor $21,000. Ouch. The Town Council supported these fee increases after much discussion last summer, but to see the reality slap real projects in the face was a wake-up call. That amount of money as a fee, whether it’s for a commercial space or public building, isn’t a great incentive for encouraging more construction in town. Restaurant owner Peter Maxwell is discouraged about expanding his establishment given the fees (see letter page 4). He’s not alone. Again, reality bites sometimes.
The council is looking at modifications to that fee schedule. That is a good thing and has to happen. How much adjustment comes about is up to the council.
These days, the bottom line is the bottom line. The council is re-opening a valid debate. They have some work to do. The library expansion proponents are making good points. They have some work to do.
Four or five years ago the bottom line was like a plush down comforter. These days it feels more like barbed wire and glass shards. Reality bites sometimes.