Breckenridge releases recording of illegal Town Council executive session
BRECKENRIDGE — The town of Breckenridge has released a recording from a Breckenridge Town Council executive session held illegally Tuesday, Nov. 3, regarding a transit center and workforce housing project proposal by Breckenridge Grand Vacations.
At the public portion of the meeting, Breckenridge Grand Vacations CEO and co-owner Mike Dudick proposed partnering with the town to move the transit center near the Watson Street roundabout and Park Avenue on land that he would provide for free. Workforce housing units on the Gold Rush lot also were proposed.
Council members then asked questions about the proposal before going into executive session, where the project was discussed privately among council members and staff. Immediately following the executive session, Mayor Eric Mamula said the council decided it would not be interested in either the transit center or workforce housing proposals.
While entering an executive session to discuss negotiations is allowed, Colorado Open Meetings Law permits only limited discussion as it pertains to negotiations and prohibits any type of decision-making, informal or otherwise.
According to media attorney Steven D. Zansberg, the executive session should have been public. He cited the Open Meetings Law, which states that the adoption of a position cannot occur at an executive session that is not open to the public.
After the meeting, Dudick questioned why the decision-making was done in private.
“It’s upsetting … the Town Council convened in executive session after we made a presentation, and then made policy decisions about workforce housing and free land in the executive session,” Dudick said Wednesday. “I believe that the citizens of Breck deserve to have these matters heard in public.”
Zansberg said Monday that the decision to not move forward with the proposal should have been deliberated publicly because an open discussion would allow the public to understand why the decision was made. He noted that the town essentially adopted a position on the proposals, which is not allowed in an executive session.
“They made a decision, and they each stated their position on whether or not they wanted to move forward with this proposed development,” Zansberg said. “And that’s the stuff that’s supposed to take place in an open meeting.”
Zansberg noted in an email that while Mamula cited that the executive session was for the purpose of discussing negotiations, the session did not discuss how council would meet again with the developer to revise the terms of the proposal, for example, but decided whether or not to move forward.
“At the very least, we should know who was in favor of moving forward and who was opposed to it,” Zansberg said in an earlier interview Friday.
The town of Breckenridge disputes the fact that the meeting was held illegally.
Assistant Town Manager Shannon Haynes wrote in an email that the town feels strongly that the council operated within the law, which allows the town to go into an executive session to determine positions relative to matters that may be subject to negotiations, develop strategies for negotiations and instruct negotiators.
“In this case, there was a proposal on the table from a developer,” Haynes wrote. “… In a properly called executive session, the Town Council determined its positions with respect to these two matters that would have involved further negotiations between the Town Council and the developer, and instructed the mayor to indicate to the developer and the public that the Town Council did not want to enter into negotiations with the developer on either of the two proposals.”
At the request of the Summit Daily News, the town released a 43-minute recording of the portion of the executive session that discussed the Breckenridge Grand Vacations proposals. In the recording, council members discuss both proposals, and then each council member says why they are or aren’t in favor. Zansberg equated this process to a vote cast in private for or against a project.
During the executive session, council member Dick Carleton said he thinks the project would necessitate a roundabout on French Street. Other council members ask about the necessity of moving the transit center, the current center’s capacity and the cost of building the center, which was estimated to be a total of $4 million to $5 million by Town Manager Rick Holman.
Carleton then suggested splitting the cost of the transit center with Breckenridge Grand Vacations, and Town Engineer Shannon Smith brought up restroom maintenance, which she said should be discussed.
Each council member then shared comments with the overall consensus being that council was not in favor of moving the transit center because of the cost. The project would include funding from the town, but no specific cost contributions from the town were proposed.
Council members also expressed concerns about the flow of pedestrians if the transit center was moved farther away from Main Street.
During the discussion on workforce housing, council member Erin Gigliello said she had concerns about dormitory-style housing, which Breckenridge Grand Vacations suggested as a design option, but said she was open to more conversations on the topic. Council member Kelly Owens said she didn’t think the Gold Rush lot was the right place for workforce housing, and that the 100% area median income rental rate was not sufficient.
In the proposal, Breckenridge Grand Vacations would fully fund the workforce housing project with the caveat that average rent stays at 100% area median income.
The council was unanimous in its lack of support for either proposal.
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