City approves agreement with Rifle economic development group
Citizen Telegram Editor
Small business expansion grants available
The Rifle Regional Economic Development Corp. has a $75,000 loan program for small business expansion projects within its boundaries, which takes in Garfield County between New Castle to Parachute and Battlement Mesa.
Grants can be awarded for training, new equipment, workforce expansion and other projects in amounts ranging from $3,000 to $10,000. President Michael Langhorne said the federal grant was received last year and the Roaring Fork Business Resource Center helped as well.
No grants have so far been awarded, but Langhorne said applications are available on the group’s web site, rifleedc.com.
The Rifle Regional Economic Development Corp. and City of Rifle have agreed to a two-year memorandum of understanding that gives the nonprofit group assurances the city will not approve development of three lots near the Brendan Theatres without the group’s involvement.
The agreement helps give the economic development group assurances it can continue to try to put a development proposal together for the lots.
City Council approved the agreement on a 4-1 vote, with councilmembers Barbara Clifton and Rich Carter absent, on May 21.
Councilman Dirk Myers cast the lone dissenting vote and said he was concerned the two-year time frame might be too restrictive.
“We’re giving someone the exclusive right to market these lots for two years,” he said. “The economy could change faster than you think. I’m more comfortable with a one-year agreement with a one-year extension. If there’s no interest in the first year, then we can look at it and see if it still makes sense for the city.”
City Attorney Jim Neu said if the city is approached by a potential developer, they will be directed to talk to the economic development group. He also pointed out the City Council will have the final say on any development proposal, the terms and conditions of a development agreement and noted the agreement is not binding.
Mayor Randy Winkler said he understood Myers’ concerns.
“To mentally tie up a property for two years is not ideal,” he stated. “But that’s not really the case, since anyone who wants to do something there will work through the [economic development group.]”
The president of the economic development group, Michael Langhorne, said in a May 23 interview that a similar agreement with the city was in place when the Brenden Theatres agreed to build in Rifle.
“In fact, Brenden needed an extension,” he said.
Langhorne added the fact the agreement is in place “indicates some progress” is being made with a potential developer, but he would not supply any further details.
“I will say we think there is a lot of potential for the city-owned lots,” he said. “This is a good time to lay the foundation for someone to come in here.”
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