Pagosa to explore creating a downtown authority, Four Corner Business Journal, April 17-30, 2006

By Leanne Goebel

Journal Correspondent

PAGOSA SPRINGS, Colo. — Angela Atkinson, paid consultant to the Town of Pagosa Springs on the Downtown Master Plan, consultant on the comprehensive plan, chair of the Big Box Task Force, interim chair of the Community Vision Council, member of the Town Tourism Committee, chair of the CVC Art & Culture and Economic Development Committees, recent facilitator of the town’s recreational survey, and former downtown business owner has added another project to her repertoire. The town council asked Atkinson to manage the feasibility study for creation of a downtown authority. Atkinson will receive $4,000 for the project.

The goal of the project is “to explore the various organizational and legal structures that may be appropriate given the current situation in Pagosa Springs.” According to Atkinson’s proposal, the town council has demonstrated support for exploring structure that might include taxation districts to fund capital improvements; support and promotion for businesses within those districts; special event coordination; general branding and positioning for downtown and other possible functions.

Atkinson suggests that her approach will be to look at the different models currently being used in communities throughout Colorado. Nine communities have Downtown Development Authorities or DDAs. The research fee will cover phone interviews, time studying Web sites and other documentation that Atkinson will use to form the case study. Additional fees will pay for Harold Stalf, director of the Grand Junction DDA, which recently approved a Business Improvement District, to offer insights and assistance, and for Andy Kudtsen of Economic Planning Systems (EPS) to provide details on the financing and legal aspects of each model. Last year, EPS completed the baseline economic study for Pagosa Springs.

Atkinson also suggests that the “practical implementation” element of the study will look at how each of these models may or may not apply to Pagosa Springs given the political and economic climate in the community. “This is of particular importance given the fact that any district formation will ultimately require voter approval thus impacting decisions on district boundaries, timing, public relations and outreach,” Atkinson writes in her proposal.

For just under $5,000, a report will be produced documenting the findings, including the pros and cons of different downtown authority models presented in narrative and matrix form; potential responsibilities of the entity; discussion and strategies including a timeline for implementation; and recommendations.

The council felt that this was an important step in supporting local small businesses, given that they may choose to allow large format retailers to enter the community. Trustee Stan Holt wondered whether the study should include a test as to the political viability by talking with downtown business owners and residents. “If the property owners don’t approve this, it’s a no go,” Holt said.

Atkinson said that she felt the study would include recommendations. The education component is critical. “Property owners have to understand tax increment financing. We have to be really clear on how this is rolled out to the public,” Atkinson said.

“I think this is a worthwhile study and positive step,” said Trustee Judy James.

Trustee Tony Simmons said, “This is a big step moving forward in a public/private partnership.”

Mayor Aragon agreed and council voted unanimously to move forward with the feasibility study. No specific timetable for completion was presented in the proposal.

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