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Council seeks input at today’s economic development work session
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

After the unveiling of an economic development plan last week, the Pagosa Springs Town Council appeared reluctant to approve details of that plan, tabling an ordinance and a resolution that would have waived certain fees and provided a rebate of sales tax for certain developers.

Early into Tuesday night’s council meeting at Town Hall, Mayor Ross Aragon tabled an ordinance that would have set the stage for an impact fee abatement, while also tabling a resolution that would have provided a building and planning fee waiver and would have given a sales tax rebate to developers who use local labor and purchase building materials locally.

With a work session scheduled today in council chambers at Town Hall regarding “Economic Development Incentives,” Aragon said, “We’ve set these for discussion at Thursday’s work session, anyway. We should see how those discussions go before we make a decision.”

“I would like to engage with the businesses that are already here as to what they need,” said council member Mark Weiler, emphasizing the need for local business owners to participate in Thursday’s discussion.

Predicated on the theory that new construction will stimulate the local economy and that slashing impact fees (and other levies) will promote further development, firm details of the plan almost exclusively address encouraging new development. However, the plan lacks any concrete strategy for encouraging other business enterprises outside of the construction industry, and says nothing about addressing the glut of commercial and residential properties already on the market — according to the Archuleta County Multiple Listing Service (a shared data base used by Realtors), an inventory that is at a record high. Likewise, the plan ignores how adding to the existing inventory, through new construction, will affect current property values.

For his part, Town Manager David Mitchem acknowledged that the economic development plan remains a work in progress, telling council, “The proposal that will come before you on Thursday is simply a first step.”

Having deferred matters of economic development to Thursday’s discussion, council looked to next year and how to deal with the July 4 parade. With July 4 falling on a Sunday, the parade encounters several additional logistical complications beyond those posed during the other six days of the week. With parking complications due to downtown church services and overtime required for town staff, council was forced to look at the possibility of moving the parade to another day (the U.S. has listed Monday, July 5, as an official holiday in 2010).

However, with most downtown merchants seeing the parade as an opportunity for an exceptionally brisk business day, the consensus was to keep the parade on July 4, with council voting unanimously to allow the parade to take place on a Sunday next year.

Council also approved hot air balloon launches from Town Park during the summer months (except during planned events in the park). With unanimous approval by council, Windwranglers, the company running the concession, will launch 15-25 trips a year from Town Park.

Finally, council agreed to a temporary transfer from the General Fund to the Capital Improvement Project fund (for the new Town Park pedestrian bridge) and to the Town Tourism Committee (for the printing of an additional 20,000 summer visitor guides).

Funds for the bridge, a little over $300,000, will be reimbursed from a CDOT grant awarded last March, with payment to occur in September.

For its part, the TTC reported a 12.02-percent increase in lodger’s tax revenues in May (relative to 2008) and a 4.61-percent increase in lodger’s tax revenues year-to-date — not just good news for the town’s tourism industry, but also an indication to council that the TTC would have the necessary revenue stream to pay back the $24,000 fund transfer.

Council approved both measures unanimously.

Although today’s council meeting will be a discussion (with no formal votes taking place), Mitchem and council hope that local business owners and residents will be able to provide clear direction on how the town should proceed with economic development. The discussion on economic development takes place at noon in council chambers at Town Hall. Council meets again for the July mid-month meeting at Town Hall at noon Thursday, July 23.

jim@pagosasun.com