Drop in owner-merchants impacts OCC district board

       The Old Colorado City Security & Maintenance District is looking for a few good property owners.
       There aren't that many to begin with, and that's part of the problem. By law, only owners of the roughly 100 properties in the district can serve on its advisory committee to City Council.
       But beyond that is the increasing number of properties owned by people or entities with no real stake in Old Town, according to Bill Grimes and Judy Kasten, the district committee members with the longest service.
       “We're seeing more and more absentee owners,” said Grimes, who has been on the board - except for scattered periods totaling about five years - since a 1979 city ordinance created the district as part of Old Town's revitalization. “We've got a lot of shop owners who'd like to get involved but can't, and lot of owners who look on it only from an investment standpoint.”
       The committee oversees the upkeep of the three-block area between 24th and 27th streets, using money from the tax all owners in the district pay. In addition to caring for existing infrastructure such as the brick pavers, trees and shrubbery, the district in recent years has brought about public lighting upgrades, added landscaping and successfully advocated to City Council for a fair share of city parking meter revenues (which will be used to repave the district's free parking lots).
       But committee efforts are being hampered by the increasing difficulty of filling its seven spots. Three openings are coming up in 2007 - with no bevy of property owners waiting in the wings to fill them - because of legally required term limits.
       Term limits kick in after a member has served two consecutive three-year terms. This will be the second time that has happened to Kasten, who owns an accounting business and part of the Old Town Plaza building at 25th Street and Colorado Avenue and has served as committee chair for several years.
       Grimes, who started the Colorado City Creamery at 26th and Colorado, can't remember how many times term limitations have forced him off. When that happens, he, like Kasten typically wait the required year, then get reappointed.
       Kasten estimated that more than half of the current property owners are absentee and as a result not actively involved with the issues on the street.
       She and Grimes are also concerned about newer property owners' lack of awareness. Grimes could only think of a few who remain from 1979, and many newcomers don't realize the district's role in keeping Old Colorado City attractive. “They think this is the way it always was,” Kasten said. “But the fact is, it used to be a slum.”
       Recently, adding to her alarm, Kasten met a property owner who'd been here a year and a half and barely even knew the district existed or what it did.
       The board meets monthly. To keep up with issues, “members have to be willing to spend some time,” Kasten said. “But most of the time you don't have to work that hard.”
       Terms are for three years. Appointment is by City Council.
       For more information, interested applicants can call Kasten at 634-1190 or the Colorado Springs Mayor's Office at 385-5453.

Westside Pioneer article