No objections at first hearing on Manitou Springs urban renewal

       No property owners from Manitou Springs' “east corridor” spoke out against a proposed city urban renewal authority (URA) at the first of two City Council public hearings on the subject Oct. 17.
       Manitou's seven council members also offered no objections to the plan before unanimously giving it first-reading approval.
       The second public hearing is scheduled Tuesday, Nov. 21. Council approval at that time would finalize an ordinance stating that “one or more blighted areas” exist in the city, causing a “need for the redevelopment and rehabilitation in such areas in accordance with Colorado Urban Renewal Law.”
       The findings stemmed from a study this year by a consulting firm funded through a state grant obtained by Manitou's Economic Development Commission (EDC). The study area covered a roughly 1 ˝-mile area of Manitou and Colorado Avenue between the Manitou interchange and 33rd Street.
       Only the portion within Manitou city limits would be part of the city's URA. The goal would be to use such an agency's financial flexibility to encourage and help private investors to upgrade properties within that area.
       The main comments on behalf of a URA were provided by EDC Director Kitty Clemens. “Many of the structures there are for sale, and owners have expressed a desire for public/private investments,” she told council.
       George James, whose Dillon Motel in Manitou Springs is within the study area, also spoke for the proposal. “I think it would beautify the gateway into Manitou Springs,” he said. “It's an opportunity we should take advantage of. And it will bring more tax money in.”
       The only comments questioning the concept came from well-known Manitou Springs artist C.H. Rockey, who expressed concern that urban renewal could wipe out the “little motels” that are so prevalent in that area now. “We need some of them to handle those people who don't make a great deal of money,” he told council. Also, he worried that in their place could come development that would make the city look less unique. “It's very special, and I want to keep it that way,” he said.
       Mayor Marcy Morrison, who helped spur the urban renewal effort, said she did not expect such a negative eventuality to occur, and City Planner Dan Folke added that the city could hammer out goals for the area that would serve as guidelines to private developers.
       Tim Haas, an EDC member, also responded to Rocky's comments, saying that the east corridor needs attention because of crime problems, including meth labs that have had to be cleaned up.
       In her comments, Clemens also mentioned crime, reporting that Manitou police show a “high number of domestic violence calls” from some of the area's roughly 20 motels, where many people make permanent homes on a weekly or monthly basis.
       The blight study also noted crime issues, as well as site deterioration in about half the 100 properties in the study area. Also adding to blight were public infrastructure problems, including bad or missing sidewalks, poor streetlighting and vulnerability to flooding from Fountain Creek, the study stated.
       Before the Oct. 17 Manitou council hearing, there had been several informal meetings with property owners, the EDC and the consultant this year. Some property owners in the study area had raised questions at those meetings - chiefly regarding the impacts of a URA on their small businesses - but none of these appeared at council.
       Without opposition, council's chief uncertainty seemed to be whether the URA, when formed, should consist of the council itself or a separate board appointed by the mayor. Morrison postponed discussion on that matter until the Nov. 21 meeting.

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