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The Salida City Council and the Salida Planning Commission met jointly in a work session on March 6 to go over the results of a survey conducted by consulting group Studio Seed on the South Ark Neighborhood. This is the name applied to a development proposed for the roughly 100 acres of the Vandaveer Ranch property south of U.S.  50.

CMC-proposed campus is one possibility for South Ark Neighborhood. Image courtesy of the City of Salida

The session also reviewed the annual report from the Parks and Recreation Department (the agenda and packet for the meeting can be found here).

Cheney Bostic from Studio Seed led the group through a PowerPoint display on the survey, which measured the Salida community’s differing preferences for South Ark Neighborhood development, and compared them to the preferences expressed by 181 attendees at the Open House hosted by the city on January 31.

Bostic began with some demographics: “There were 897 respondents to the online survey,” she reported, “which is about 11 percent of the population [of Salida] – this is a great response rate.”

Of the 897, “81 percent of respondents are homeowners, and we are generally hearing from (self-reported) higher income residents… which is typical of this type of engagement. We will have to employ other means [to reach] renters. 68 percent of respondents were between the ages of 35-64; 48 percent of respondents lived in two-person households.”

South Ark Neighborhood survey results. Image courtesy of the City of Salida.

Demographic differences expressed themselves in the “housing choices/preferences” question. “Housing for families” was the #1 choice for the online respondents, and “housing for singles/couples” was the second choice. While at the Open House, “Seniors” and “Multi-generational families” were the top two choices.

As far as “other uses” were concerned, “CMC/education” was the top choice by both survey groups. Bostic concluded with a project overview that posited “50 acres for development, 50 for open space/environmental” with “next steps” outlined as having a design charrette developed by the last week in March.

South Ark Neighborhood Survey Result – image courtesy of the City of Salida.

During the discussion, Salida Mayor Dan Shore talked about the need for housing and price tags for development, including the clamor from some residents for leaving the Vandaveer Ranch property as open space:

“The thing I hear about is, ‘leave it open and build it elsewhere’ – but where? That’s just part of what we are going to be dealing with here – how many of these people who want to see this being open space are housing-secure?”

Other discussions centered on water, and the price tag for getting city infrastructure under U.S. 50 and on to the property.

The possibility of Colorado Mountain College (CMC) being a partner for development was raised. “50 percent developed, 50 percent open space sounds perfect to me,” said Council member Mike Pollock. “I would like to see all housing be affordable spaces but that’s just me.”

“I couldn’t advocate for anything but affordable housing,” said Shore.

Show Me the Money

As the conversation threatened to spiral into the ether of endless possibilities, Treasurer Merrell Bergin brought it back down to the earth of economic realities.

“I think the survey is a useful barometer of public opinion, but that’s all it is. We all know that sales taxes drive this city,” said Bergin. “People in beds, [consuming goods and services, pay the freight] – recreation is the frosting on the cake. It would be nice, but show me the money. Every time we put money into bricks and mortar for amenities, there’s an ongoing cost of labor and upkeep. Tonight, we need an actionable plan for what will help the most people and those who need it the most.”

In Bergin’s opinion, “We are done with sticky notes on design boards — what will pay for itself? Housing and retail will pay for itself. So will CMC.”

“You could start thinking about higher density [housing] out there,” said Bostic.”Public-owned land is the best way to think about affordable housing.”

“We need massive affordable housing,” said Council member Alisa Pappenfort: “I am 100 percent behind what Merrell said – we need affordable housing for seniors and people of all ages. It’s not a war, but we need affordable housing for seniors who are otherwise going to have to sell out because they can’t afford to live here anymore.”

Informational Graphic

Capital Improvement Suggestions from Parks and Recreation Annual Report. Image courtesy of the City of Salida

“Show me the money” became a theme for Parks and Recreation as well, as aspirational plans outlined in the annual report were discussed, such as an ice rink in Marvin Park, Centennial Park outdoor recreation facilities, and a partnership with CMC to provide facilities in the South Ark Neighborhood development.

“How is this [ice rink] going to happen? A bond?” asked Justin Critelli. “If we can put our sights out to 2026 – get the community ramped up [to consider the] pre-COVID master plan, where community center funding would be through a bond.”

“We have work to do,” he added. “An ice rink was priced at $40,000 three years ago. We have to try to persuade [various interest] groups to get together to support a capital improvement plan.”