Town of Blue River works to diversify economy with business development
Blue River’s sales tax initiative passed by a narrow margin last week. Now, the town wants to capitalize on that success by opening up for business.
The town currently has no retail commercial uses and is heavily reliant on property tax. Blue River officials said they hope sales tax revenue will help them diversify and grow the town’s budget in the future.
“We want to keep the same feel of our community. But we want to make it convenient for the people who live here, and keep our dollars here instead of going into Breckenridge,” Blue River Mayor Lindsay Backas said.
It’s still unclear exactly how much revenue the 2.5 percent sales tax will add to the town’s budget from utilities, short-term lodging and the sales of goods collected from within the town.
“That will require some sorting out with the state,” said Gabe Preston, a planning consultant with RPI consulting in Durango.
One thing that is clear is that the tax will allow Blue River to capture future sales tax revenue brought in by businesses that set up shop within town limits.
Members of the town’s comprehensive plan advisory committee discussed the kind of development they’d like to see during their meeting on Monday evening at the Blue River Town Hall.
“One of the things you have written here (in the comprehensive plan) is to protect and reflect the uniqueness of the community, and I think we all feel that way,” said advisory committee member Steve Lapisohn. “We have to be careful about not changing the look and the feel of living here in the midst of trying to develop.”
The possibility of the arrival of a chain gas station, or marijuana-related business, scares some Blue River residents, Lapisohn said.
Town advisory committee members might have ideas about what they don’t want to see, but Preston said they need to come up with a clear idea about the kinds of development that would fit the town.
“We need to actually look at the land characteristics to discuss what kind of development would make sense,” Preston said.
Land characteristics include the ways developable properties connect with the highway and streets. Town representatives also need to consider the mass and scale of potential developments along with landscaping, Preston said.
“All of those things can give you a really decent picture of what a development might look like,” he said. “But we don’t want to pigeonhole it down into something that doesn’t fit into anyone else’s ideas.”
Backas said that based on conversations with fellow residents, she thinks there is market for a small grocery/convenience store, a coffee shop or perhaps a deli that offers lunch, as well as a place to take family for dinner, or to get a drink and socialize.
The mayor said one of the next steps will be attracting developers to town.
“Once we have Blue River open for business, how do we let people know?” she asked.
“I would figure out what properties could be zoned for, and let developers know so they can come to you with ideas,” County Commissioner Dan Gibbs suggested. “Then you can decide, maybe with some town hall meetings, what you would like to do.”
Preston said that once the advisory committee fleshes out more specific options for development, it plans to host a community meeting to get feedback from residents.
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