Breck may limit Main Street real estate offices
What’s your take?Should Breckenridge regulate and limit the numbers and/or size of Main Street businesses? Are there too many real estate offices along the town’s main drag? Post your comment by clicking the “Comments” button above.BRECKENRIDGE Talks about limiting the number of real estate and other professional offices on Main Street could spur a hearty debate about local government’s role in regulating the business environment in the bustling downtown core.At issue are preliminary discussions by the Breckenridge Economic Development Advisory Commission (BEDAC) about “restructuring first floor business types.” That means trying to find ways to maintain an optimum mix of retail, restaurant and office space. The town council may look at the proposal as early as Feb. 13 to decide whether to proceed with a regulation, perceived as a draconian measure by at least a few local Realtors, who feel themselves unfairly targeted by the potential restriction.
Carla Green, a Realtor with Keller Williams, has become active in the debate, exchanging e-mails with town staff, elected officials and BEDAC members, suggesting that some of the appointed commissioner members who own Main Street businesses may have at least the appearance of a conflict in their advisory role.In an e-mail to the town and a subsequent interview, Green said she’s not only concerned about potential impacts on real estate offices, but on other types of businesses.”Where will it stop?” Green said, suggesting that micro-management by the town could eventually lead to restrictions on other types of businesses.Old issueThe issue isn’t a new one, said town manager Tim Gagen.”It’s been around since I got here,” said Gagen, hired by Breckenridge in 2000. Over the years, the town has heard repeatedly that the proliferation of real estate offices on Main Street has cost the town some of its trademark ambience, Gagen said.
But the economic climate was decidedly different the last time town officials looked seriously at a plan to restrict offices, back during the post-9/11 recession.”The economy wasn’t so great. There was concern we could end up with vacant storefronts,” Gagen said of those previous discussions. At the same time, there was a strong constituency for letting the market determine the mix of business along the thoroughfare.Town Councilmember Eric Mamula, who said he’s not necessarily on board with the proposal, said that’s still a valid argument. But the discussion needs to occur, he added.About 20 percent of the commercial space along Main Street – including upper floors – is used by various professional offices, including real estate businesses. That’s up a bit from about eight years ago, Gagen said.BEDAC member and Main Street business owner Steve Lapinsohn updated the Breckenridge Resort Chamber on the issue at a meeting earlier this week, arguing that it’s crucial to maintain the vitality of Main Street with a healthy mix of businesses.Gagen said other towns in the region have taken similar steps with the intent of protecting that somewhat intangible downtown feel that helps define places like Vail, Steamboat and Crested Butte. According to some of the research evaluated by BEDAC, those moves have by and large achieved the desired results without any significant economic ripples. Vail experienced a drop in rentals for about a year after adopting a similar measure, Gagen added.
Another element of the debate relates to skyrocketing real estate values that have even created a demand for residential space on Main Street, Gagen said, citing a couple of specific examples of existing businesses which have been discussed in the context of conversion to residential living space.Although the town is still a long way from adopting any specific measure, Gagen said if the day comes, it would be a planning code issue, with an absolute policy regulating what types of businesses are allowed on Main Street. That could ultimately result in a decrease in the number of real estate offices. Existing professional offices would be grandfathered under the regulation, so there would be little or no impact to existing offices. Additionally, there could be an exemption to allow for some limited professional office storefront representation on the ground floor, with additional office space upstairs.BEDAC will discuss the plan again at its next meeting, Feb. 8, at the Breckenridge ice rink, to decide whether to proceed with a recommendation to the town council. The council would subsequently decide whether to take on the issue.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at email@example.com.
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