‘You can talk to me,’ Breckenridge mayor says in State of the Town address
May 17, 2018
A local government's connections to the people it serves can be a beautiful thing, Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula proclaimed as he and members of the town council fielded questions at Wednesday night's State of the Town address.
"The beauty of local politics is your voice really matters," he told the audience. "You might not be able to talk to Trump, but you can always talk to me."
The questions were submitted on note cards. While mayor picked the order in which they would be answered, every one got a response.
Whether the question was about build out, a four-star hotel or something else, much of the conversation revolved around growth and the pervasive feeling among many locals that the town is maxed out far too often.
"It's the thing we care about most," Mamula said. "Where is this community heading and how are we going to make sure that when we get there, we still want to be here."
On public safety
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At the beginning of the address, Mamula briefly touched on the death of a young boy struck by a truck while riding his bike Friday in the Wellington neighborhood.
"It is just terrible," Mamula said, explaining the town doesn't yet have an official statement because Colorado State Patrol has not released the findings of its investigation.
The mayor and town officials have already met with the homeowners association and a local group of safety advocates, Mamula added, but he offered that it's premature at this point to start talking about the town taking action, like putting up new speed bumps.
"This thing will work its way through and eventually get to the council level where the council will decide what kind of funds need to be spent," he said.
On the hotel project
In February, town council wouldn't green-light a private project that would land a luxury hotel and wholly owned condos at the base of Peak 8, on land currently owned by Vail Resorts. Councilman Gary Gallagher, whose term began in April, had previously authored a letter to council expressing his firm opposition to the project, but on Wednesday he softened his stance.
As Gallagher explained, the property is "much too valuable" for Vail Resorts, owner of Breckenridge Ski Resort, not to pursue some kind of development there. Even if the developer's request for added density is denied, the councilman said, a smaller development on the property could produce the same number of guests, parking needs, added traffic and workers, given the amount of density that currently rests with the property. The rooms might just be smaller.
"I guess the only point I want to make is don't be surprised when it comes back to council," he said. "I think it's possible that council may be able to see their way to get their hands around this because we know, at the end of the day, something is going to happen, and if (a developer) comes in with a huge public benefit, that could be quite compelling."
On the future
The town is working with the Breckenridge Tourism Office to study future growth, what the town might look like in the year 2040 and what needs must be addressed between now and then. The goal is to be more proactive and less reactionary regarding overcrowding and strained infrastructure.
"We want to look to 2040 given the fact that 5,000 people move to the Front Range every month, and that's the net number," Mamula said. "We want to be prepared and we want to make sure we're doing what we can today to prepare for 2040."
Council members ceremoniously broke ground on a $50 million water plant in April. Once complete, the project will provide Breckenridge with a backup source of water should the town's only source of water currently, the Gary Roberts Water Treatment Plant at Goose Pasture Tarn, be threatened.
"Given where the tarn is located — woods all around and high, steep banks — if we ever had a wildfire that took out that hillside, the facility at the tarn is unable to process the water … which gave rise to the town moving forward and designing the second water plant, which is underway right now," Gallagher said.
Breckenridge is studying running broadband fiber throughout town. "The way we believe this will work right now is what's called, 'open access,'" Mamula explained. "You'll be able to pick your provider. The town… will just provide the access, and then your providers will have to fight it out for who's going to give you the best deal."
On public transit
The mayor lauded the Breckenridge's bus system for moving over 1 million riders in 2017. "Just think of that," he said. "This is a town of about 5,000 permanent residents, and we moved 1 million people on our bus service. That is pretty awesome."
Also, Breckenridge tested an electric bus in March. While the test featured a bus about 15 feet longer than anything the town would consider buying, Mamula called it "a successful" test. Other improvements in lighting and walkability were also brought up.
A packed presentation
The State of the Town was well attended, and other topics brought up included workforce housing, a new park, the town's efforts to find a suitable site for a town-managed campground, the golf course clubhouse remodel, the $17 million renovation of the Breckenridge Recreation Center, new deed restrictions for workforce housing, looming repairs to Goose Pasture Tarn Dam and town finances.
Other conversations centered on the town's preparations for the upcoming wildfire season, efforts to start a recycling program, build out in Breckenridge, the master plan for the McCain property, the BTO's out-of-state marketing, and the town's efforts to secure an expansion of City Market.