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The Salida City Council met in regular session Tuesday, May 4 approving the long-awaited installation of the Splash Pad at Centennial Park.  This approval accepts the bid of $350,326 for the construction of the project by Stratton & Brätt Landscapes, LLC of Pleasant Grove, Utah.

Public Comment Focused on Housing

Living in your car may be the only option for some. Courtesy image

Lengthy public commentary at the beginning of the session focused primarily on the Safe Outdoor Space (SOS) camping proposal at the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center. BETCH Salida member, Madelyne Felsch said that the Safe Outdoor Space campsite provides an “opportunity to create a temporary solution to a massive problem”, gesturing to the other representatives of BETCH in the gallery.

She pointed out that this workforce population has already been camping, unsafely along the river, alongside the highway, in dispersed forest camping sites no longer available, and in their cars on city streets.  In response to neighbors’ concerns, she said that appropriate policies were being drafted such as a signed behavior agreement, criminal background checks, and keeping the space enclosed, along with 24-hour staffing.

Francie Bomer of Salida also supported the project.  She stated that Salida “is a community that cares.” She reminded the audience that Salida’s motto for years has been “Follow The Hearts to Salida” and said “now put our hearts to the test.” Betsy Dittenber, Executive Director of the Chaffee County Community Foundation added her support, saying that Salida needed “short-term solutions” as well as long-term workforce housing programs.

Three neighbors spoke out with concerns about the idea.  One who lives across the street from Centennial Park was upset that he had not been notified of the plan.  He said that the park had been cleaned up and was now a “family place” and that he was worried about a “homeless camp”. (Staff and Council Members have stated repeatedly that this site is intended for employed, preapproved, community workers).

Erika Gelgand, M.D. on Holman Avenue expressed concerns about parking overflowing to nearby streets, camper’s pets, and also that the park was already crowded in summer.  Another resident in the 1600 block of L Street was frustrated that there was “no public input until tonight” and that she felt blindsided.

BETCH is planning some additional community outreach to listen to and inform residents living near the site. The approval for the Safe Outdoor Space campground has been deferred until a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City is finalized, defining responsibilities for BETCH as the site operator.  At the same time, a formal “ask” and budget for funding is required to be submitted to the Finance Committee prior to their meeting on May 16.  Only then, might a formal proposal be brought to Council for approval.

F Street Summer Closure

New pedestrian zone sidewalk stencils appearing on all 4 corners of F Street in Salida, seen from First Street to Third. Merrell Bergin photo

In other public comments, Jenna Janisch, Vesper Curtis and Hannah Michaels were among several who spoke in support of the idea of a performance stage to be installed between 2nd and 3rd Streets on F Street during the summer season closure to all but pedestrian traffic. They explained that the goal would be to actively promote the performance arts in this otherwise quieter section of F Street.

At the end of the meeting, City Administrator Drew Nelson reminded Council and the audience that the City has a dance surface available for rent to nonprofits. He explained that a process exists for any group to apply for a permit to occupy and place a stage at the curb, while still allowing for safe fire department access.

Ordinance 2022-06

The Residences at Salida Bottling

The applicants for the 16 residential units at 323 West First Street came back with additional impact research, as requested by the council, on view obstruction and shade and snowmelt effects.  Concern had been voiced about the variance to allow the height of some of the buildings in the project to reach five feet over the current maximum allowable height of 35 feet.

The view studies illustrated that obstruction would be minimal.  Additionally, the applicant agreed to add a fourth inclusionary housing unit with the height variance intact after which the council voted unanimously in favor of the project.

“Open Doors” RV Rental   Program

Resolution 2022-16

This resolution is another creative emergency housing solution spearheaded by Community Development Director, Bill Almquist and staff and is an addendum to the Chaffee Housing Authority (CHA) Open Doors program. Open Doors aims to offer incentives for short-term housing and vacation rentals to be converted to longer-term rentals.

RVs are increasingly being relied upon for affordable housing options across Colorado as the housing shortage has worsened. Courtesy image

The addendum first presented on April 4 proposes the purchasing of up to ten used recreational vehicles to be available for rent to members of the local workforce.  This idea would speed up alternative housing options for this workforce population before the main Open Doors program could be launched.  CHA would be the operator of the program, responsible for tenant vetting and management.

Discussion centered on the affordability of the RV project’s overall rent with respect to the $643/month land rental cost. Almquist said he is working closely with a local RV dealer as well as the Chaffee Housing Authority (CHA) to determine the best options for cost, with estimates of rent; penciled between $750 and $1,000 a month in this concept stage.  The goal would be to have more than one person (and perhaps families with small children) to maximize the use of each available RV’s accommodation and sleeping layout.

Council approved the amendment to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which defines the responsibilities of the CHA, the city, and other third parties for the expanded concept.  Other MOU’s and contracts are expected to follow at a future date with the RV provider and third-party maintenance contractors.

Council Member Naccarato calls for more Inclusivity, Racial Awareness in Salida

During individual reports from council members, Council Member Dominique Naccarato read a statement sharing a recent experience where an overt racial comment was made during the Colorado Parks and Wildlife “Partners in the Outdoors” conference in Vail on April 19.  Part of the conference was meant to strategize ways to create more diversity and inclusivity with regard to access to outdoor recreation.

The comment has led to backlash and the suspension of Colorado Department of Natural Resources Parks and Wildlife Director Dan Prenzlow.

Naccarato expressed that she found the racial comment to be disturbing and “educational”, prompting her to propose to the council recognition of the Juneteenth celebration during FIBArk and a request to take “a deeper dive into beliefs and biases the city has been harboring plus a reflection on positive actions that can be taken to make Salida a more welcoming and inclusive town.”

The evening concluded with the council approving a motion to adjourn and convene an Executive Session regarding matters “related to real property acquisition”.

Editor’s Note: Regarding the community comments that they didn’t know about the potential city solutions for Salida workforce housing, Ark Valley Voice has been covering the issue continuously and our stories regarding this topic are available in the AVV archive under “Workforce Housing”