Breckenridge residents looked back at a year full of difficult discussions, as well as some successes and solutions, at Thursday’s State of the Town meeting. Town council reviewed 2015’s struggles and accomplishments, spilling over into plans for the upcoming year.
As expected, housing and transit were two major points of discussion throughout the evening. Town council has pushed for additional workforce housing, moving forward plans for Pinewood Village Two, which is currently under construction, and Huron Landing, a joint effort between the town and the county that will make 26 additional units available for local workers.
“The demand is clearly outpacing the supply,” Breckenridge Mayor John Warner said, before opening the discussion.
In the upcoming year, the town is also looking at plans for housing on the “CMC-Denison Placer” property, at the Block 11 area near the north end of town. The proposal would add about 60 units, part of the total plan for Block 11 to create between 200 and 350 workforce housing units.
In addition, Warner noted the revised master plan for the 127-acre McCain Property, which will create space for affordable housing, a new water treatment plant, solar gardens and overflow parking in the future. The parking is included in the plan as the town is considering constructing workforce housing at the current location of the Satellite Lot, as part of the plan for Block 11.
Another potential solution, Warner added, would be to add housing to additional commercial spaces, as seen in other ski communities. For example, the lot containing City Market and other stores could be revised to create housing on top of the commercial space.
Of course, with residents comes the need for parking, leading to one of the most drawn-out discussions of the evening. Several citizens expressed concerns about transit — namely reducing congestion, expanding bus services further from the town center, and improved safety on Airport Road and other areas frequented by pedestrians.
DRIVING IN TOURISM
With the passage of the lift-ticket tax last fall, the town stepped toward addressing its perennial parking problem. After creating a parking taskforce, hosting public meetings and polling the citizens, the tax was determined to be the best method of solving the problem.
As it stands right now, the parking shortage only contributes to congestion throughout the town. Warner said a study showed 30 percent of the town’s traffic flow is generated by people searching for a parking spot.
“A lot of our gridlock is just people out driving, looking for another place to park,” Warner said.
He added the town intended to not have the number of gridlocked days per year exceed 25, the current estimate. As part of the effort to reduce gridlock, on busy days traffic into the town is held to allow cars to leave through the roundabouts.
“On busy ski days, we try to manage traffic in and out of the town the best we can,” assistant police chief Dennis McLaughlin said. “Quite frankly, we get so many cars into town that nobody can move through.”
Another piece of the plan is to gradually expand existing bus routes, to encourage both residents and visitors to leave the car at home. The town is currently conducting a study though Nelson Nygaard Consulting Associates to look at their options for transportation in the future. Two public transit forums will also be held the afternoon and evening of Feb. 18.
“This council believes in more transit, no doubt about it,” Mayor Pro Tem Mark Burke said.
Two Pinewood Village residents stood to raise concerns about pedestrian safety on Airport Road, concerned about the lack of lighting and crosswalks in the area following a fatal hit-and-run last fall.
“We’ve had two occasions in the morning where the police officers are at our door from two hit-and-runs to see if we knew something,” said one resident. “Lighting, it has to increase. I know there’s a fine line; we’re in a small, resort community, but we’re all gonna feel pretty bad if there’s another hit individual at that same exact spot. Everybody that lives there works in the community to support us.”
At this point, Burke said, Police Chief Shannon Haynes is working with the town on a lighting study, to decide what type of lighting should be used in darkened areas of town, and where it would best improve safety.
Town manager Rick Holman added that the town plans to install additional lighting, and push-button activated crosswalks in that segment of Airport Road. An additional sidewalk may also be added.
THE GOLDEN GOOSE
In the midst of all of the discussions about infrastructure, one woman brought up the subject of diversifying Breckenridge’s tourism-driven economy.
“You have to build it for them to come. It’s just like a Silicon Valley,” she said, noting the push for resources, such as more broadband, for tech-driven services.
Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe took the question, noting that the town would watch how businesses transform to match the town’s changing demographic.
“I think we have to do that while still minding the store,” Wolfe said. “The lion’s share of our business is everything that has to do with the resort. Certainly that is putting a lot of eggs in one basket, there’s no question about it.”
Councilwoman Erin Gigliello stepped in to add that while the town has taken an initiative in affordable housing and childcare, much of the business development within the town is done independently of government.
“I think there’s some push and pull as to how much a local government should be involved in administering the private industry, too,” Gigliello said. “I think it’s seeing what’s out there, and if we can help, but there’s also smart growth.”
Many councilmembers echoed that sentiment, adding that while more business diversity would be welcome, additions need to be balanced with the town’s available infrastructure, including housing and parking.
“At the end of the day, Breckenridge has limited resources,” Councilman Gary Gallagher said. “Quite frankly, a lot of our excess funds are moving in that direction, as we try to put a bigger dent into our housing needs.“