Council sets goals for 2005
Boosting a downtown economy threatened by Glenwood Meadows, the pending loss of commercial space for a new high school and conversion of buildings to office use is one of the goals Glenwood Springs City Council is setting for this year.Council members also hope to zero in on ways to better promote tourism, and reassess how city accommodations tax revenue is used for that purpose by the Chamber Resort Association. They want to continue working on ways to provide affordable housing, though some of them have reservations about a low-income apartment proposal by developers at Glenwood Meadows.And they have moved passage of a transportation tax to the top of their list of transit priorities. City voters rejected a 0.5-cent transportation tax in November. However, an existing 0.25-cent tax won’t expire until 2006. The city hopes to use a new tax for purposes such as extending Eighth Street and building a bridge across the Roaring Fork River south of town.Council members worked through a tentative list of 2005 goals last week, and will vote later on a finalized version.Their far-ranging discussion included concerns expressed over the future of downtown. Council member Chris McGovern worried over a trend toward increasing occupancy of downtown retail spaces for real estate sales and other office-related uses. In addition, downtown faces the looming threat from 400,000 square feet of commercial space that is to start becoming available at Glenwood Meadows this fall.Council members also lamented the looming loss of True Value and other businesses to make room for a new Glenwood Springs High School. Some council members say they think too much of the property, which they consider part of the greater downtown area, will be used simply for school parking. The city has no legal power to stop the Roaring Fork Re-1 School District’s plans. The district is exempt from zoning review by the city. But McGovern said it’s still possible for a grassroots movement to hold sway with the district.”The group that wanted the bus barn moved was pretty effective,” she said, referring to residents who recently convinced the district not to build a bus facility in their neighborhood in the mid-Roaring Fork Valley.Council hopes to promote business downtown and beyond by looking at how to further boost the city’s tourism. It plans to review how the chamber handles tourism promotion under its contract with the city.”I’m not saying we’re going to take it away from the chamber,” Mayor Larry Emery said.McGovern said she’d like to see the chamber better analyze data related to tourism numbers and what attracts visitors to town. She believes it currently invests too much on print advertising when data indicates many are drawn to Glenwood Springs by the Internet.She also said the city may need to rethink requiring the chamber to spend money on Central Reservations. The phone-based system may no longer be needed because so many people reserve lodging via the Internet. Only 3 percent of reservations are made through Central Reservations, she said.Council members also believe it’s important for the city to look at increasing amenities that will draw tourists to town and keep them coming back.”I keep hearing from people, ‘Well, we come here but there’s nothing to do when we get here,'” said council member Bruce Christensen.He suggested ideas such as mountain bike and cross-country trails at the old Wulfsohn Ranch property, and Emery added suggestions such as a sledding hill and driving range.”None of these are huge … but all of them cumulatively add value to the town,” Christensen said.On affordable housing, McGovern reiterated questions that some on council previously have raised about whether the city should grant fee waivers for an affordable housing project proposed by developers at Glenwood Meadows.”I don’t know that the people of Glenwood Springs should be taxed and should be subsidizing Target and Lowe’s,” she said.She said the better answer would be for those and other anticipated retailers at Glenwood Meadows to pay higher wages.Council member Dave Merritt said the opening of Glenwood Meadows is bound to create a housing crunch.”It’s going to require some subsidies” to solve, he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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