Breckenridge Main Street ground floor raises debate
February 21, 2008
The three options the council asked the Town staff to explore include: prohibiting new offices; allowing new offices with distance separation which would require additional discussion to determine what is appropriate; and taking no action.With each option, current office space is grandfathered in, said Mark Truckey, assistant director of community development, during the open house. That means, it can be sold to another professional office and remain that way.Aspen, Steamboat Springs and Vail have all taken this kind of action.Lory PounderBRECKENRIDGE The revival of discussions about limiting office uses on the ground floor of Breckenridge Main Street recently triggered a bit of debate.It was a topic at a Breckenridge Town Council work session earlier in the year, which led to an open house seeking community input this week.I am completely against this, and Ive said it before that the market takes care of itself and this is too much government, said Councilmember Eric Mamula at a work session in the beginning of January.On the other side, Councilmember Rob Millisor said that he is concerned about keeping Main Street dynamic, and that its importance shouldnt be left up the market. I really have a concern that we could lose the golden goose, which is our Main Street, he said at the previous worksession.Behind the discussions that began about a year ago with the Breckenridge Economic Development Advisory Committee (BEDAC), is the concern for vitality of the area. According to information boards at the Wednesday night public open house, an occasional office is not a concern, but the potential for office space to out-bid other uses such as retail and become more prevalent over time is a concern.About 13 percent of Main Street frontage is office.What people saidThe goal for the open house was for the community to read the information presented about the idea and fill out a questionnaire that will be compiled and presented to the council.Mark Truckey, assistant director of community development, who spoke with about a dozen realtors in those areas, said he heard mainly positive comments about it. He also heard from someone in Vail, which did this about 10 years ago, that at first the lease rates declined, but that they rebounded within the year. That person still felt it was a good move overall for the community, Truckey said.Kouri Wolf, chairwoman of the Summit Association of Realtors who has an office in Frisco, was one of the about 40 people who attended. In an interview before the open house, she described the ordinance as an issue of property rights.The market does tend to self correct, she said, adding that this kind of restriction would give government too much control.It would limit what an owner could do, said Wolf who was disappointed that the meeting wasnt more of a discussion. For example, if an owner couldnt find a tenant wanting to run a retail shop or restaurant, they are stuck, she said.Local resident Sarah Thorsteinson agreed, saying, at that point the ordinance would be doing the opposite of what the council had hoped because there would be empty storefronts.Right now we have a great healthy mix, Thorsteinson said, adding that many visitors enjoy looking at the photos in the windows of real estate offices.Over time, the council has taken numerous steps to enhance the core area for the pedestrian experience such as historic preservation, street furniture and street lighting, Truckey said. And in August, they passed an ordinance restricting future ground floor residential uses. If the shopping district is less attractive for people, then everyone loses, commented a member of the Towns planning department about the importance of protecting the pedestrian experience in the area.The plan is to return the issue to next weeks council work session, so a summary of the information from the community questionnaires can be presented.Lory Pounder can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at email@example.com.