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Glenwood gathering gets govts. gabbing about growth

There were laughs and knowing nods when Carbondale Town Planner Mark Chain told a story about taxes, as they relate to service demands, at a growth conference held Wednesday in Glenwood Springs.

Chain said a new Carbondale resident got all over him one day, complaining the town didn’t plow its roads enough or provide other services. After a few minutes, Chain asked the resident where he was originally from.

“He said he was from Connecticut,” Chain said.



“When I asked why he moved, he said the property taxes were killing him,” Chain said.

The joke here, for folks who don’t regularly deal with the irate citizenry, is that people love their municipal services, but they sometimes hate to pay for them.



“We’re all having to deal with that,” Chain said.

Taxes, municipal services, impact fees, growth and related topics were covered at the conference, presented by the Carbondale-based Healthy Mountain Communities. Chain was one of more than a dozen speakers from local, state and federal agencies, along with elected officials and professional planners.

The conference, which attracted more than 125 participants, is part of Healthy Mountain Communities’ series of workshops to provide tools for dealing with growth-related pressures at the local, county and regional level.

Chain explained what Carbondale has done right and wrong during the past 10 years, a decade in which the town’s population has more than doubled to 6,500.

On the right side of the ledger, in 1994 Carbondale imposed a $1.50-per-square-foot dedication fee on new houses at the new River Valley Ranch development to partially offset the project’s impacts to the town.

Chain said the fee was imposed after the town commissioned a fiscal impact study to determine how new housing units would affect the town.

The study projected Carbondale would enjoy increased use-tax revenues during River Valley Ranch’s early construction stage, but those revenues would level out. Eventually the new subdivision will cost the town more than it brings in due to increased service demands, the study predicted.

That’s what is happening, Chain said, and overall town expenses are expected to exceed revenues by next year. The dedication fee has helped ease the town’s growing pains. Carbondale has pocketed $2.5 million to date in River Valley Ranch dedication fees, which it can use for police cars and other expenses.

At build-out, the dedication fee will have netted Carbondale a total of $4 million.

“You don’t have to be a sophisticated town to do this,” Chain told the conference, which included representatives from nearby towns and counties and Leadville, Buena Vista and other Western Slope communities.

Chain said Carbondale also made some wrong moves in the past 10 years. One of those decisions was to accept land for a soccer field at Hendrick Ranch, but not making the developer build the playing field. Instead, Carbondale built the field, and it cost much more than expected.

“We probably wouldn’t do that today,” Chain said.

Karen Rowe, the Colorado Department of Transportation resident engineer in Glenwood Springs, explained how her department’s planning process is slow, but growth is happening fast.

Combine those two realities, and the department is now looking to towns and developers to help fund highway upgrades such as interchanges.

“New development is making our problems worse,” Rowe said. “There’s no way we can pay.”

Pat Tucker, the Colorado Division of Wildlife area manager, quickly listed ways that growth is affecting wildlife, including decreased winter range for big game and more deaths from roadkill.

DOW and police departments are fielding more calls from new residents who are moving into bear habitat.

“The bears still like to call it home, and it’s working for them,” Tucker said.

Then there are the law enforcement calls DOW must handle during hunting season from new residents whose homes are next to public lands.

“They call and say, `What’s this guy in orange doing in my backyard? And he’s carrying a gun,'” Tucker said.


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