Councilman defends policies to kill ‘Summer of Fun’
The hot topic of special events and short-term rentals once again took center stage at the Cripple Creek Town Council meeting last week.
Despite the imposition of a strict time limit on public comment, elected leaders found themselves in the somewhat murky waters of summer festivals; or in fact, the controversial removal of popular sponsored events.
The city’s decision to no longer fund special events, other than the 4th of July celebration and some small celebrations, has sparked outrage among small non-gaming businesses and some entertainment/restaurant operators.
This change in practice completely killed an era in Cripple Creek once known as “The Summer of Fun,” when the town participated in a slew of special events and festivities to attract more families to the area.
John Freeman, the owner of The Creek restaurant, spoke out at a previous meeting and cited more than 20 areas of concern with current city policies, saying the city was heading down the wrong path.
At last week’s meeting, Freeman significantly toned down his comments and praised several city staffers for meeting with him to discuss his concerns. Still, he insisted that greater transparency was needed in the area of special event funding and pledged to be more involved in the budget discussion in 2022.
Resident Jesse Willing, in comments submitted to TMJ, was prepared to take serious aim again at the city’s actions to kill events that residents enjoy and that help nonprofits and emergency service groups. You are forcing these same people down the mountain to enjoy the same festivals and events that they could walk to from their own homes and enjoy from their backyards,” Welling said, in comments submitted to TMJ.
But at last week’s meeting, he was constrained by the clock and spent his time complimenting some employees, like public works director Steve DiCamillo and historic planning/preservation coordinator Renee Mueller.
Councilman Mark Green, who has been the target of much of that criticism, however, defended the city’s new non-special event funding policies. “The city has done the same thing every year (for the past few decades),” Green said. “There is a new movement forward.”
Specifically, he cited the city’s desire to operate more like a “sustainable business,” instead of just being a giveaway for special event operators that don’t really benefit local businesses.
Speaking to Freeman regarding the plight of small businesses, the councilman noted, “You have to have people in your business. We are 28 years old doing the same things. We’re going to grow this town.
Green cited the large number of businesses going bankrupt over the past 30 years and suggested that the city’s efforts to fund major festivals were not helping their situation.
Freeman, however, responded that a number of small business owners in Cripple Creek question the town’s current orientation towards a town that tries to promote tourism. He said they believed, “The city is going in the wrong direction.”
This debate, however, was officially closed by Mayor Pro Tem Tom Litherland, who led the debates for the past week, and chose to close the discussion. This subject will no doubt be continued at a future meeting.
The moratorium against short-term rentals continues
In another hot topic that has divided the council, elected leaders found themselves split over a permit appeal by Greeley couple Michael and Sarah Janik over a business license application.
The couple were seeking to appeal an earlier decision to reject their offer for a short-term rental property at 317 Golden Avenue, due to the city’s current moratorium on such licenses. The moratorium was declared last November due to the shortage of housing for the workforce in the city. Officials worry that an influx of these types of VRBO-style units (vacation rentals by owners) may need further investigation, as they could deprive local workers of the accommodations they need.
The city has approached a near-crisis situation regarding the lack of affordable housing, a situation that is seriously affecting casino employees.
But the Janiks argued that when they first bought their property that moratorium was not in place and that they were relying on information they received from city officials at the era.
“We are not real estate investors,” said Michael Janik. “We are hard workers.”
The couple said the short-term rental would give them an additional way to cover the costs of taking out an additional mortgage as a second home. They cited their love for the Cripple Creek area and their desire to be part of the community. They noted that they had started the purchase of the house before the city’s moratorium.
Several council members sympathized with their plight, but noted that their hands were tied to grant an exception. Even after lengthy discussions, the council essentially reached an impasse on this issue.
As a result, the couple’s offer was basically rejected due to split opinions as they needed to get a number of positive counts.
On the plus side, the elected officials told the couple that this moratorium was due to expire in about four months.
Moving time for AMC West
In other city news, Ted Borden, director of the Aspen Mine Center, updated the council on the progress of the new move to the resurgent Madame June facility near the courthouse, which will serve as a service center. central for many offices of the current Aspen Mine. The entire project, which is a nearly million-dollar undertaking resulting from a large grant from the state Department of Local Affairs, is approaching a moving day scenario, Borden noted.
The new facility will be called AMC West and will house many of the service operations currently taking place at the Aspen mine. The Aspen mine will then become more of a community hub. This move is expected next month.