“Economic Impact Study Underway,” originally appeared on pagosa.com, Jan. 27, 2005

Leanne Goebel, l.goebel@pagosa.com | Posted 1/27/05

“We’re objective analysts,” said Dan Guimond of Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. Guimond and EPS Vice President, Andy Knudtsen held a scoping session at the Community Center with over 150 people crowded into the Senior Center dining room.
The Community Vision Council, working with the Town of Pagosa Springs, contracted with EPS to provide an economic impact study that will provide an economic base analysis, evaluate the fiscal condition and opportunities of the area, and recommend economic development alternatives. Parelli Natural Horsemanship provided a $40,000 donation to fund the study. Guimond and Knutdsen spent the day meeting with stakeholder groups such as the lodging association and the downtown business owners.

“We want to hear what you have to say,” Knudtsen said, expressing the desire of EPS for the study to be inclusive. They were quick to point out that the preliminary information presented to the crowd was just the beginning. “We haven’t scratched the surface yet,” Knudtsen said.

What they know so far is this: The population of Archuleta County is 11,196 and since 86% of the population is outside the Town of Pagosa Springs, we have a great need for a high-level of coordination between the Town and the County. “If the Town implements a plan that is not mirrored in the County it cannot have impact,” Knudtsen said.

Thirty percent of residents are second homeowners. The state projects an increase in older residents over the next 25 years. At a previous CVC meeting, Town Manager, Mark Garcia, had pointed out a recent request to build 250 new housing units in the Town of Pagosa Springs. That alone would represent a 37% growth in the Town population. “If we do nothing to encourage or discourage growth, County population is predicted to reach 30,000 by the year 2020,” said Angela Atkinson, Executive Director of the CVC. “Growth is neither good nor bad. It is. It’s how we manage it that matters.”

Knudsten pointed out that the average annual growth in the County of 7.6% between 1991 and 2000 was “very strong.”
The wholesale/retail trade and service sector provide nearly one quarter of all jobs in the County. Real Estate and Construction are second. The average per capita income in Archuleta County is $19,021, the lowest in the five county region that includes: Dolores, San Juan, Montezuma and La Plata Counties. The average per capita income for the state of Colorado is $30,000.

Knudtsen and Guimond pointed out that the growth in Archuleta County and Pagosa Springs, on a percentage basis, exceeds the growth in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. “There’s a greater opportunity for growth within Pagosa Springs than you’ve seen over the past 18 years,” Knudtsen said. He and Guimond agreed that there was more opportunity for growth here than in most other counties or towns on the Western Slope.

EPS will look at existing retail sales, sales tax, dollar inflow and outflow to determine what type of retail is supportable in this community. Part of that will involve detailed exploration of the pros and cons of big box development. EPS has worked with Bozeman, Montana and Carbondale, Colorado on the big box issue and pointed out that many communities do not have the luxury of saying no. If they say no, the big box will go outside the town limits or in the next town in the county. “Pagosa Springs and Archuleta County are in sync on this issue, that’s a big advantage,” Guimond said. An audience member pointed out the possibility for big box development to occur on Southern Ute Tribal land at the intersection highways 160 and 151. The Southern Ute tribe is a client of EPS and Knudtsen and Guimond agreed that this was a viable issue to consider.

EPS will also track tourism trends and document conditions and evaluate recreation and other business sectors for impact. However, more significantly, the EPS study will fiscally evaluate the Town budget. EPS will identify key fiscal relationships; analyze the impacts from growth on the Town’s fiscal condition. They will evaluate the role of retail within the fiscal framework and make suggestions for how Pagosa Springs can best manage growth.

“The Town has to balance possible revenues with the kind of services, amenities and infrastructure desired,” Knudtsen said. One goal of the economic analysis is to determine what kind of revenue the Town and County need to service growth.
“There are ways to fund growth and capital needs, such as impact fees and special assessments to help allocate the costs of new growth,” Guimond said. “This study will frame alternatives for consideration as you move forward with other community planning processes.”

EPS distributed a handout to each community member present with four questions to answer. First, describe a success story in Pagosa Springs from the recent past. Second, what are the top three economic issues facing Pagosa Springs? Third, what type of commercial growth best reflects the community character you would like to see? Fourth, what public improvements or services would you like to see to prepare for that growth?

Success Stories:

Community members identified everything from the paving of downtown streets to the generosity of local businesses as success stories. Some key items included the Four Corners Folk Festival and Music in the Mountains; the clean up of the old sawmill property, the building of Town Hall and the Community Center, and Parelli Natural Horsemanship as a successful business. Several people commented that feeling safe on the streets and children being able to walk around downtown and go to the movie theatre, study biology in the river and take school ski trips were success stories.

Economic Issue:

These issues were more complex and included growth and development, wages, infrastructure and travel. The Town and County need a plan to attract and develop small businesses and reduce the churn factor, one person said. The breadth and depth of the labor pool is insufficient, another added. A concern that with growth and development there are greater service requirements and taxes go up. Do we have to pay or does new development pay? County residents cannot vote on issues facing the Town. The County and the Town have to find a way for greater representation, someone else added. The need for specialty services for the older population, i.e., someone to do odd jobs and shovel snow. Someone expressed the need for commercial travel facilities. Another resident was concerned about the broadband infrastructure for consultants and those who work from home. Also mentioned were zoning, parking, and the use of local construction companies in local development. One idea suggested was to explore a regional government between the five counties in the area to share costs, like the Regional Transportation District in Denver.

Commercial Growth:

Many ideas were generated about the type of growth the community wants to see. Small, locally owned businesses, more places for fun and entertainment, a small convention facility, a performing or cultural arts center, educational training, light industry, specialized healthcare. Some specific ideas included hosting an artist’s or photographer’s weekend at a local bed & breakfast, an Outward Bound school, a tortilla factory, a farmer’s market, a college or extended studies program, a research and development laboratory, a new county dump.

Someone suggested that commercial growth should be born out of community need, rather than designed as a revenue source. And Pierre Mion suggested that we should support local businesses and commercial establishments, rather than reject them summarily. “Why is there an urgency to evict one of the best auto repair shops in town?” Mion asked in reference to Joy Automotive.

“We need to have a cultural training program and teach people
who come here to respect our local culture,” one woman added.

Public Improvements:

One community member said she would prefer to have our town stay a little, mountain town. The only improvements she wanted to see were repairs to buildings in disrepair. Better road maintenance and snow removal were mentioned often, as was traffic management and the speed of traffic through downtown. Cate Smock expressed concern about safety and economics. “I can’t cross the street with my eight-year-old,” the downtown resident said.

“If people can jaywalk, businesses thrive,” Knudtsen acknowledged. Guimond added that the signs down the middle of Main Street in Durango were successful in helping mitigate the speed of traffic and pedestrian safety. Someone else suggested the possibility of a truck bypass.

A 20-year resident pointed out that we have two communities, a “264-prefix” community, and a “731-prefix” community, and that we should combine the Town and County government into one governmental agency.

Mary Jo Coulehan expressed concern for the utility companies to keep up with the growth, and several people mentioned the need for more water. Additionally, the need for expanded postal facilities and a bigger library came up. More efficient cell phone service and better telecommunication infrastructure came up again. “Social services and court services are under pressure and need to be dealt with in the economic plan,” a man in the front row said.

Richard Goebel suggested we needed a plan for flood control and someone else wanted to see expansion of the biking trails. It was recommended that we use Reservoir Hill to its fullest potential.

“We need new facilities for the elementary school, junior high and intermediate school,” student Leah Silver said. “It’s hard to study when water is dropping on your head.”

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