Ballot debate pits hope against skepticism over workforce housing proposal in Glenwood Springs

Clark Anderson, Yes for Workforce Housing, addresses Ballot Issue 2C Accommodations Tax at the Issues and Answers Forum at Glenwood Springs City Hall.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The proposed 2.5% lodging tax to help workforce housing, or ballot issue 2C, was debated at Wednesday’s Glenwood Springs Issues and Answers Forum with the opposed party being Citizens Concerned about City Council (CCCC).

Clark Anderson — the head of the Glenwood Springs Ad Hoc Housing Committee that conducted months of community outreach and research to create solutions for workforce housing — spoke in favor of the measure, while Zac Parsons was opposed, representing CCCC.  

Anderson opened with how the rising cost of housing has impacted the ability for the local community and workforce to live in Glenwood Springs.  

“Ultimately, it’s hurting the fabric of our community; 2C provides us as a community of Glenwood Springs with an opportunity to create much needed resources to really begin tackling this issue,” he said. “2C provides us with a practical and proven solution.”

If approved by voters this fall, the ballot measure will add a 2.5% tax to all short-term lodging in Glenwood Springs and generate an estimated $1.5 million to assist in creating and assisting in workforce housing for people who live or work in Glenwood Springs. 

Parsons said, repeatedly, that Glenwood Springs City Council should not be trusted with additional money, and the measure would increase control over private-sector industries, like housing, though city council would ultimately not be the ones to decide how the money is spent. 

That would be decided by the independent board. Who decides the board members is not decided yet. 

“We have to make sure, as a town, we’re holding our elected officials accountable and, in particular, our members of city council accountable; and, the way to do that is to make sure that we’re not giving them blank checks,” Parsons said.

Clark responded by listing multiple checks and balances put in place for why the city council would be held accountable each step along the way and would not be “handed a blank check.

“I think it’s useful to take a look at the implementing ordinance that provides a lot of accountability measures,” he said. “It lays out a lot of these important points.”

Zac Parsons, Citizens Concerned About City Council, addresses Ballot Issue 2C Accommodations Tax at the Issues and Answers Forum at Glenwood Springs City Hall.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

It provides safeguards like establishing a distinct seven-member board, independent from council, to oversee the investments, Clark said. It explicitly says that the funds can only be used for direct program costs, and it explains that there will be annual audits, along with a 20-year sunset, and the expenditures that will be posted online each year for public review

The funding can only be used for Glenwood Springs’ workforce, people who work in local Glenwood businesses, and the funding cannot be moved to any other part of the budget.

“At the end of the day, we are going to be able to, as a community, hold our council members accountable to everything they do,” Clark said. “This is not about the council today; this is about solving long term challenges for our community and creating the resources we need to do that.”

One main concern from Parsons is fear of council creating expensive new city jobs and funding studies with the money instead of spending it on assisting in workforce housing.

“The city is basically going to go out and hire somebody else, pay for another massive study, and, at the end of the day, we’re gonna see $1.5 million basically turn into $600,000 because the city is going to waste half of it,” he said. 

He also pointed out concern for people who move into local hotels and motels during off season or short term having to pay the extra lodging tax, though the ballot measure states that the tax will only be placed on short term lodging less than 30 days. 

“They’re using that or short-term housing in order to get by, but now we’re going to tax them in addition, just to pay for their own housing?” Parsons said. 

Much of the research for spending options has already been conducted, and the independent, seven-person board would be in charge of making decisions in place of hiring a new, singular position through the city. Numerous hotels and motels were included in the research conducted for setting the ballot measure. There are members of the industry who are concerned that it will hurt tourism, but, as Clark reminded Parsons, there will be no tourism with no workforce.

“It’s been used in other communities and can be used effectively here to invest in sensible strategies like motel conversions or incentives for accessory dwelling units or gap financing for workforce-housing projects or down-payment assistance,” Clark said.

Growth would be the highest concern for many residents, and that would be one of his strong suits working as a professional for Community Builders, a company that studies community growth and ways to continue growth sustainably. 

Instead of fueling rapid growth, 2C could help to create a more sustainable future while maintaining a community, he said.

“What this will do is give our community more control over the growth that’s going to happen, so that, when future development comes, we are better able and better prepared to influence how that development occurs and to ensure that more of it is actually affordable to the people who work in our community,” he said. 

For Parsons, however, there’s little reason to have faith that local policy makers will be able to improve Glenwood Springs’ housing crunch when so many at the national and state levels have yet to figure it out, he said.

“All of those people are a billion times smarter than the current city council that we have, and they’re not able to solve the problem yet,” he said. “It’s because it’s a difficult problem to solve. Throwing $1.5 million at it isn’t going to do anything.”

For questions about the Workforce Housing Fund and the city’s workforce housing program, please contact Hannah Klausman at

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