Mayor Pro Tem, Justin Critelli, acting in place of the vacationing Mayor Dan Shore led the Salida City Council through its September 6 regular meeting.
Comments included a request from local architect Bob Grether to shift the location of the proposed bicycle pump track northwards of the Salida Hot Springs Pool dressing room to allow space for an eventual soaking pool.
Grether also expressed his opinion that a single soaking pool would be far less costly than the stalled five-pool proposal and asked that a study and design be included in the 2023 city budget. Katie Grether agreed and asked that a soaking pool not be delayed – that older adults need something like this now, without having to travel out of Salida.
Little Red Tricycle business owner Adriane Kuhn said that the extended closure of F Street for the summer pedestrian plaza helped their block. She then asked council members to consider planning further ahead for the plaza, not simply year to year. This will help business owners to budget capital, plan for staffing and justify longer-term improvements for their outdoor spaces.
Language Finalized for Occupational Lodging Taxes, Measures Move to Nov. Ballot
Ordinance 2022-17 prompted the majority of the discussion for this session. Staff presented the latest proposal for a ballot measure that seeks to generate revenues from short-term rentals using new and higher occupational lodging taxes (OLT).
In the revised language, an annual license fee of $1,000 would be assessed for all short-term rental license holders. Described by some as a “flat tax”, if approved by voters, it is estimated that it could raise up to $275,000 in the first year. It should be noted that the initial proposal was for a $5,000 annual license assessment. Following resident and council feedback this was later reduced to $1,500 and finally to $1,000.
A second measure would increase the OLT up to a maximum of $15 per bedroom per night which potentially could generate up to $525,000 per year. Originally set to cap at $10, the OLT was increased to $15 per bedroom per night in the final reading.
Both pools of revenue would be earmarked to promote affordable housing efforts in the City. Some uses of funds might be for deed restricted housing, participating in the creation of the Chaffee Housing Authority, providing land to housing nonprofit agencies, and directly funding affordable housing projects (such as Jane’s Place).
OLT Public Hearing Provides Feedback Prior to Roll Call Vote
Multiple attendees in the gallery rose to speak about the OLT ballot issues, including members of the Bringing Everyone Through The Crisis of Housing (BETCH) group. While most seemed resigned to the possibility of increased OLT taxes, many requested that both the “flat tax” and the nightly OLT’s be reduced from the proposed amounts.
Council members acknowledged that the few primary residence owners are working to maintain their homes and need the extra income. On the other hand, the majority of license holders are from out of state, who view this largely as a good business investment or retirement income builder.
Madelyne Felsch, a manager at Tres Litros Beer and BETCH member supported the measures as written saying “Owners have more options than people seeking shelter.” Bryant Musser, Director of Program Services at the Salida Boys and Girls Club asked council members to consider the community as a whole. “Some people will be hurt but many others have no shelter at all. We need a workforce to support visitors.”
Musser continued “Some toes will get stepped on but the whole community is hurting”. He and others expressed that the measure was not perfect, concluding with a paraphrased saying that originates from a Chinese proverb, “Every journey starts with a single step”.
Citing personal experience, an employee of the Salida Library said she sees homeless people frequently at the library. She has personally sheltered kids and works with the schools to help out.
Speaking against the measures, Wendy Rombold, a local Realtor noted that STR owners have “added to the community, spend money, and their guests spend money and hope to move here someday.” Primary homeowner Kalen Steeves requested an exemption for local owners and encouraged the council to “slow down and take a closer look before writing the ballot language.” She (and her young son) both spoke citing it as a “hardship” for them.
Mike Day, owner of an Old Stage Road studio condo joined the conversation via Go To Meeting. He said “the problem is caused by the free market. STRs are only eight percent of the housing stock.” He supported the OLT but advocated that it be raised gradually over three years to get to $15. He said the flat tax was unfair for small units like his and again, suggested it be raised over three years.
In council discussion following the public hearing, council member Dominique Naccarato said she believed the problem needs everyone to pitch in and help. She said she wanted to switch the focus (from STR owners) to the larger community. “We don’t have time to not do this. Living in your car is not an acceptable option,” she added.
Council member Jane Templeton quoted a phrase often heard in Salida council proceedings. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Templeton added “We have few funds for this now but we can leverage the maximum of $800,000 with matching money from others and really build the fund. “We need to put this on the ballot and let the people speak.”
Council did raise the question of adding a sunset clause to the measures, but City Administrator Drew Nelson recommended against that as being inflexible and difficult to overturn. Regardless of any possible future election to become a Home Rule city, future councils can revisit the ordinance at any time, and could always reduce the OLTs without having to go back to the people.
After concluding the discussions and noting it was a difficult issue, a roll call vote (with council member Kasper absent) passed the ballot measures unanimously. It will now move to the Chaffee County Clerk and Recorder for inclusion on the November 8 consolidated general election and a vote by the people.
Newman Annexation and Zoning
In a multi-step series of two ordinances followed by two resolutions the Second Readings and Public Hearings on the proposed Newman Annexation of the property located at 7680 CR 140 all passed. The tract will now be annexed into the City of Salida with High-Density Residential (R-3) zoning.
In Other Matters
With no opposition in the public hearing, the Amplified Sound Permit request from High Side! Bar & Grill was approved, increasing their total number of events from 60 to a maximum of 72, through October 29. Approval of the permit generated a silent “wave” of support from the audience.
Both Resolution 2022-42 (the Jane’s Place Development Agreement) and Resolution 2022-43 (Purchase of Land at Salida Airport) also passed unanimously with no substantive discussion.
Staff and Council Reports
Concluding the evening, City Administrator Drew Nelson welcomed Christy Doon as the new Assistant City Administrator on her first day on the job.
Reading from prepared remarks, council member Jane Templeton said she wanted to address a “local media outlet’s” response to a discussion Council had three weeks ago during a work session about an appointment to the Planning and Zoning Commission. (One of the candidates being considered expressed a strong desire to learn about Planning and Zoning as an alternate member, despite her admitted lack of technical qualifications.)
Templeton expressed frustration that the outlet “published a lengthy editorial castigating two council members for even bringing up the concept of diversity, equity and inclusion” as part of the interviewing process.
Among other points, she noted about the editorial, “Last and more important, criticism of mere discussion, NOT [formal council] ACTION, starts to feel less like legitimate comment and more like ‘cancel culture’.” Templeton added, “That kind of criticism can have a chilling effect both on current members of council AND on community members who have considered stepping up to take on civic responsibility in some form. I support continued council attention to the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Templeton’s complete remarks are captured in the full Salida City Council YouTube recording, timed at approximately 3:02:45 into the session. That recording also includes the preceding joint work session with the council and planning commission.
Editor Note: Templeton did not refer to “the local media outlet” by name, but it was not Ark Valley Voice. The subject of diversity, social equity and inclusion is not a new topic for AVV:
Featured image: Photo y Tierra Mallorca for Unsplash.