Summit County commissioners are worried the fabric of the community has changed for good |

Summit County commissioners are worried the fabric of the community has changed for good

Economic development consulting firm is coming up with a list of recommendations for how the county can rebound from the pandemic

A five-bedroom home at 84 Pheasant Tail Lane in Silverthorne’s Angler Mountain Ranch subdivision is pictured in October 2017. Since the pandemic, the prices of homes have skyrocketed, making it more difficult for local buyers to break into the real estate market.
Eli Pace/Summit Daily News archive

Within Colorado, community needs and challenges differ depending on where you live, and with this in mind, the state identified 16 regional teams that would each have an appointed consultant who would come up with a “roadmap to recovery” coming out of the pandemic.

The teams were identified last year. Entities like Summit, Park and Lake counties, along with The Summit Foundation, all four town governments and more were grouped together. According to a news release from the state, the Colorado Rural Resiliency and Recovery Roadmaps program is expected to create more than 100 jobs and up to $50 million in private investments.

Guiding the Summit County-area entities through the process is the Utah-based economic development consulting firm Better City, which was appointed to the Summit County area by the state. During a Summit Board of County Commissioners work session Tuesday, Feb. 22, Better City CEO Jason Godfrey gave leaders an update on where the firm is with its plan, which is expected to be complete by summer.

According to some of the data already collected through the steering committee, Godfrey said the county’s biggest hurdle is bringing in more people to fill open job positions. He noted that the county, towns and its partners are working to produce more housing to help with this issue but that he and his team are trying to look outside the box for solutions that could prove even more successful.

“(We’re) challenging the assumption of, alright, is it really workforce development that’s a priority here, is it really driving more jobs or is there something that can be done on a qualitative level that would steer the county in a direction that’s more sustainable,” he said.

During the discussion, Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue asked whether there were any other areas in the country Godfrey knew of that were struggling with a similar problem. To that, he said none that he believes have solved the problem successfully.

“Sadly, I can think of tons of examples … of communities where they’ve been on the trajectory and they’ve gone to the end where it’s really just a rich enclave,” Godfrey said. “To be honest, no Commissioner Pogue, we have not seen it done right — especially in this country.”

Godfrey told the commissioners that he couldn’t think of an example where a community that struggled with issues similar to Summit County ultimately led to a “rich quality of life for everyone.” Godfrey said community leaders would have “hard decisions and frank conversations ahead of them.”

Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence worried that what has happened with the growth of short-term rentals, skyrocketing home prices, lack of affordable housing and exodus of local workers — among other new pandemic trends — is irreversible.

“In some ways, it feels like it just happened so quickly, and I know that a lot of it is a result of the pandemic,” Lawrence said. “… I’m so nervous, and I feel, can we get it back? What can we do to stop it? And I know that you can’t necessarily answer that, but I’m just worried about the timing here because it seems like something radical needs to happen sooner rather than later.”

Summit County Commissioner Josh Blanchard also voiced concern that these issues were becoming harder to grasp, and both he and Pogue noted that issues like these were at the top of the commissioners’ priority list.

Godfrey promised that whatever recommendations his team would come up with would be “unexpected” and that his team hopes to reveal those recommendations by this summer.

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