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Rifle considers financial incentives to attract big-box retailers

Lynn Burton

Of three local towns being looked at by big-box retailers, Rifle is the only one considering financial incentives to bring the stores in.

“I’ve been preaching (incentives) for six years,” said Rifle City Council member Joe Clugston. “For the past three years, the town has been amenable to it, within reason.”

Commercial developers in Glenwood Springs, Rifle and Carbondale have been trying to woo big-box retailers to their projects for more than a year, but those retailers have declined to comment on their plans.

In Glenwood Springs, the project is Glenwood Meadows, proposed for 345 acres on West Midland Avenue in west Glenwood.

In Carbondale, it’s the Crystal River Marketplace on Highway 133. The developer withdrew his application several weeks ago, but the town trustees asked him to reconsider.

In Rifle, it’s the as-yet-unnamed shopping center on 48 acres between Airport Road and Taughenbaugh Road, south of Interstate 70.

Ohio-based developer David J. Glimcher is teaming with Snowmass Village resident Larry Ruben on the project, which received City Council approval in May. At the time of approval, Glimcher said he will announce tenants for the shopping center in 90 days.

“We plan to start construction this year,” Glimcher said at the time.

Clugston said the Rifle City Council has not negotiated directly with any big-box retailer, but town staff has talked with two or three. Glimcher and Ruben have also contacted big-box retailers.

Clugston said whether Rifle offers financial incentives to retailers depends on several factors, including the merchandise the store offers and whether similar stores already exist in town.

Whether the retailer would add to Rifle’s sales tax base is a big consideration, Clugston said.

Rifle is not considering water or sewer tap waivers as an incentive. The city also isn’t considering any up front payments to retailers. Most likely, the incentive would come from rebates on sales taxes generated at the new shopping center.

For example, the city might keep the first $200,000 in sales taxes generated at the shopping center each year, then rebate the rest over a period of years, up to an agreed amount. After that, the city would keep 100 percent of the sales taxes.

Clugston said the City Council discussed incentives in an executive session on July 1.

“We are absolutely not ready to say what we will and won’t do,” he said Tuesday.

Reaction in Rifle’s business community to the incentive idea is not evident. “I’m unaware of the town offering financial incentives,” said Rifle Chamber of Commerce President Marcia Kent.

While Rifle’s City Council continues to discuss whether to offer incentives to big-box retailers, it’s not an issue in Carbondale or Glenwood Springs.

Carbondale Trustee Susie Darrow said the current board has never discussed incentives, and the previous board never had a full conversation on it.

Then there is Carbondale’s political climate. Mountain Folks for Global Justice opposed a big-box retailer at Crystal River Marketplace, in part because it might force mom and pop stores out of business.

“Can you imagine the rolling we’d get from the Mountain Folks?” Darrow said. “We’d be taken out and shot.”

Glenwood Springs Mayor Don Vanderhoof said his city isn’t considering incentives to lure a big-box retailer to Glenwood Meadows.

“It’s never been a matter of discussion,” Vanderhoof said.


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