Proposed ballot tax questions die at Glenwood Springs City Council meeting
Separate tax questions regarding increasing Glenwood Springs lodging tax and introducing an attractions tax will not appear on the November ballot, after both were voted down 4-3 by City Council on Thursday.
The tax questions, which were first discussed by council during a special work session Aug. 26, were initially proposed as an initiative to raise funding for a city-sponsored affordable housing program. During the special work session, however, additional projects and needs were added as potential uses for the revenue, should the tax questions be approved by the voters in November. Offsetting tourism impacts on the community, keeping the downtown district clean and additional marketing dollars were among the uses added to the proposed ballot question regarding the introduction of an attractions tax.
Revenue received from the proposed increase to lodging tax was solely to be dedicated to a workforce housing program, according to the proposed question language presented to council Thursday.
The idea of creating a revenue stream to address Glenwood Springs’ lack of affordable housing was supported Thursday by a majority of public commenters; however, most said they felt the tax questions were a rushed solution that lacked community engagement, in-depth research and stakeholder buy-in.
Nancy Heard, vice chair of the Glenwood Springs Tourism Promotion Board and Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park general manager, said she was glad to see council members addressing the situation, but the proposals presented Thursday were too vague.
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“Without a specific plan for how the funds will be spent, we fear it will become slush fund for whatever is needed at the current time,” Heard said.
Hotel Colorado General Manager Christian Henny said the lack of clear wording within the proposals could lead to a future council deciding to use the funds in a different fashion, possibly even to reduce affordable housing initiatives.
The proposed attractions tax language makes it unclear what qualifies as an attraction or how the money would be spent to create housing options, said Ken Murphy, the Adventure Outdoors LLC president and co-owner of H2O Ventures.
Some residents offered support for the tax proposals.
Colorado River District General Manager Andy Mueller said the district recently went through a fruitless recruiting initiative, because they could not find qualified candidates willing to move to Glenwood Springs as a result of the area’s high cost of living.
Silt resident and Mountain Family Health Centers employee Devon Spaulding supported the tax questions because employees of the center struggle to find affordable housing in the area.
“We have employees from Grand Junction to Meeker,” Spaulding said. “Please take the time to look at the data and make an informed decision. We do believe in this.”
City Council was divided on the proposed tax questions, and several members expressed uncertainty with their own knowledge of what the proposals were trying to accomplish.
“Right now, I would not be able to justify this or explain it if someone were to stop me in City Market and ask about the tax questions,” Council Member Ingrid Wussow said, explaining she was in favor of the initiative, but not the time frame. “If we don’t do it well, it won’t pass, and we might not ever have that revenue stream.”
Council Member Shelley Kaup said she supported the tax questions, because the city has long considered increasing the lodging tax and introducing a tax on admission sales for local attractions.
“This is something we’ve been discussing for years,” Kaup said. “I look at the business community, and I ask, what has been the action? When will be the time to take action?”
Mayor Pro Tem Charlie Willman made a motion to kill the proposed attractions tax ballot question, and Council Member Tony Hershey seconded the motion. The motion passed 4-3, with Mayor Jonathan Godes and council members Paula Stepp and Kaup voting nay.
Willman motioned to kill the lodging tax increase, and Hershey seconded. The motion was approved 4-3, with Godes, Kaup and Stepp voting nay.
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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It may be by a technicality, but the Valley Valkyries 7s rugby club were the de facto champions of their hosted tournament this weekend.