Here are three things to take away from the Buena Vista board of trustees Sept. 10 meeting:
1 The theme of the night was affordable housing, and the director of the Chaffee County Office of Housing, Becky Gray, was invited up to the podium to speak to trustees three times on topics related to projecting Buena Vista’s housing needs in the future and what can be done about it.
First, during a work session before the official meeting, Gray updated the board on what a multi-jurisdictional housing authority might look like in Chaffee County.
A natural outgrowth of the Office of Housing itself, the housing authority would be an independent entity formed from an agreement between the county and each of its three municipalities.
Gray said that the extent of the authority’s powers would be up to the group that creates it, but other housing authorities in the United States can independently acquire, build, plan and manage housing projects for low-income families.
The composition of the authority’s board of directors and how they would be appointed would also be subject to a contract between the county’s jurisdictions, as would its funding mechanism.
Gray was later joined by Chaffee County Public Health director Andrea Carlstrom to discuss a $250,000 Health Disparities Grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health.
Carlstrom said the grant will help fund research into the “upstream social determinants” that can lead to negative health impacts among low-income people.
She said that the grant was, to her knowledge, the first to explicitly link the offices of Public Health and Housing.
Gray returned once again to walk trustees through some of the 40 acres of property the town owns in Buena Vista, and offered some ideas of how that land could be leveraged.
Gray divided the 8 lots into two categories based on how much infrastructure work would need to be done before they could be built on. In Tuesday’s meeting, she limited her presentation to the tier 1 properties that could be built on right away.
2 The board also broached the subject of a possible tax increase that would fund the building of a new police and fire station.
The increase would have to be put before voters – likely not until at least November 2020.
The current fire station is in an awkward location that is difficult for fire engines to easily get out of, a problem that will only get worse as traffic on U.S. Highway 24 increases, said town administrator Phillip Puckett. The building is also simply not large enough for the types of vehicles the department will need to adequately protect the town.
The police department is outgrowing its space as well, Puckett said.
The board did not discuss many specifics of what the tax increase might look like during its Tuesday meeting, but instead opened the door to what it hopes will be a more thorough, open and transparent campaign to raise funds to update its safety services, learning lessons from the “half baked” in Trustee Libby Fay’s words push to institute a lodging tax in 2018 to fund capital investments.
Puckett suggested that the improvements could be funded by issuing a bond that would be paid against the revenue generated by a sales tax increase of a fraction of a percent.
The town used the same method to fund a $1.3 million street project using the portion of sales tax revenue earmarked for street projects.
Another option would be to fund the building, which Puckett roughly estimated would cost $2.2 million, through a mill levy.
However, he felt sales tax would be a fairer route than a mill levy, which is paid by residents based on their property taxes, as much of the strain on the town’s emergency services comes from tourists to Buena Vista – as does much of its sales tax revenue.
3 Back to housing. The board approved a variance for Charlie Chupp, who will be building a modular home factory in the Colorado Center area near the airport.
Chupp whose Fading West development created the Farm subdivision, which uses homes manufactured in Nebraska, asked for a decrease in the setbacks required between the exterior walls of his proposed factory and the property line of his lot at the corner of McCormick Place and McComb Street to give the 110,00 square foot factory the necessary size to produce 76-foot long homes.
Chupp’s goal is to be in production by the summer of next year.