What’s next after passage of Glenwood Springs 2C?
City of Glenwood Springs voters have approved a new lodging tax of 2.5% for an investment fund to help create workforce housing for people who work in the 81601 area code.
Now that the ballot measure has passed, the City Council will be required to appoint a board of people to help decide the best way to spend the money.
“I was committed to working for this initiative to pass,” one supporting member of the Glenwood Springs housing ad hoc committee, Brianda Cenrvantes said. “Now I feel committed to keep working to assure that the money that’s going to come will be responsibly managed, and that it will go towards what we said it was going to go towards.”
City Attorney Karl Hanlon asked council at its Nov. 17 meeting to begin its planning during a Dec. 1 work session. Members of the Glenwood Springs ad hoc housing committee, which helped put the ballot proposal together, will be invited to that discussion.
There are no guidelines established for how or who the council should choose for the board, but both Councilmember Shelly Kaup and Mayor Jonathan Godes said they would prefer to keep the board as grassroots and community driven as the campaign was.
Hanlon mentioned adding lenders in financing as possible board members.
Since Colorado Proposition 123 passed in the Nov. 8 election, as well, there is more possibility of leveraging the additional local funding, and multiple other avenues on both a state and federal level that Mayor Godes said he wanted to look into.
“The federal government is going to be spending tens of billions of dollars on this, the state is going to be spending over the next decade billions of dollars on this, and, locally, we know we’re going to be making tens of millions of dollars over the next decade,” he said. “We need to participate at all levels.”
To the ballot question opposition’s comments that housing is a state and national issue, Godes noted that most surrounding municipalities, the state, and the national are all working to do something. Not doing anything would be the worst response, he said
“It’s an abdication of leadership, and it really puts us on the sideline to be able to leverage some of those state and federal dollars,” he said.
As to why 2C passed, unlike the 480 Donegan housing development that went to referendum earlier this year, supporters said they believed it was because the tax measure was driven by the community.
The original ad hoc housing committee was created by city staff and stakeholders to explore the housing need and to decide possible tax revenues that could alleviate some of the burden.
The original committee had 14 members with representatives from throughout the community, including the Hotel Colorado, Jimmy Johns, Colorado Mountain College, Valley Settlement, Mountain Voices Project, the Glenwood Springs Housing Commission, the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, and more.
The committee offered multiple public round tables to hear from the community on the best places to seek housing revenue through taxation, a survey to test ballot language, and gauge the most successful options.
Cervantes said that much of her work was getting the Latinx community and Latinx business owners involved.
“In some way or another, they identified that housing is a huge issue in our community,” she said.
Later, the committee collected more members from the community, including Gould and Kevin Flohr, the director of operations for the Hot Springs Lodge.
“An increase of 2-2.5% secures real dollars to address housing needs while ensuring we stay competitive with other mountain communities, and we would support that increase provided our other issues are addressed as well,” Flohr wrote in a letter to city council.
The letter also advised against an attractions tax, suggesting it would not be successful on the ballot due to less than 50% support, and that the lodging tax should go to accommodate housing needs only.
Some opponents said the lodging tax was only successful because it focused on one industry, even though it didn’t have full support from the lodging sector.
“I’ve always said that there’s no more popular tax than a tax that somebody else has to pay,” Council Member Tony Hershey said. “Donegan was about real growth.”
The No on 2C campaign, also named “Citizens Concerned About City Council,” did receive funding from multiple owners of the local lodging community, who said they are fearful it will affect their business and possibly occupancy rates in Glenwood Springs.
In June, occupancy rates were down 1% according to the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report year-to-date report, but there is no information as to which hotels and motels submit to that report.
Airbnbs will also come under the lodging tax. Airbnbs and other such short term-rentals have become a sore spot for many residents who say it takes housing stock options away from locals.
City Council will have the final say on the many decisions moving forward, but Hershey, who along with members of Citizens Concerned About City Council, said he remains skeptical.
“It’s just enough money to create a kind of bureaucracy and not nearly enough money to actually build any housing, but I certainly congratulate the people who pushed for it and this is what the community wants,” Hershey said. “As I told you on election night, we’re putting a lot of trust in the council; hopefully, they can come through.”
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