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Towns team up

Jon Stavney

Last week was a historic one for the sibling rivals Gypsum and Eagle.As cow towns along a railroad track, debates over which was tougher, smarter or more refined that started years ago in saloons have moved on to local real estate offices. In terms of residential development, if you have not noticed, Gypsum Creek Valley and Brush Creek Valley are looking increasingly alike. This past few weeks the town boards decided to put aside comparisons and cooperate, or at least make the competition friendlier in one key area – the race to attract regional sales tax dollars.The town boards have agreed that if such a windfall occurs in their town, that they will share 40 percent of 2 percent of their sales tax dollars generated by an anchor and any adjoining retail for 15 years, or until the other town catches up in sales tax revenues. It is a very timely agreement with at least one major retail anchor expected to make a decision this year.As mayor of Eagle, I want to personally thank Jeff Schroll, Gypsum town manager, and Steve Carver, mayor of Gypsum, for recommending and then persisting with this idea. I’d like to thank both town boards to have the nerve to sign the agreement.As they matured, Eagle and Gypsum took different approaches to development. Many locals saw Gypsum’s choice to provide water to the airport and annex adjoining lands as an economic opportunity missed by Eagle. Airport Gateway has been slow in filling up, but it will eventually provide significant income for Gypsum. Eagle spent 25 years fighting off a resort developer that Gypsum might have welcomed, but is now wrestling with a commercial developer over the only logical site that remains for the town to make a viable sales tax income – 80 acres along I-70 known as Red Mountain Ranch.These days, the two towns have much in common as refuge for middle-class locals who desire “more affordable” non-resort towns in which to raise their children. As they have become in the family way, the siblings have grown more alike than different. The two towns feel the same pinch. Soon, both will sport recreation facilities to go with their new roundabouts and town halls. Both have large, beautiful agricultural valleys that are slowly being filled with so-called “ranch” developments with golf courses. Eagle and Gypsum share the same profile for newly arrived downvalley citizens with high mountain-resort expectations, but who spend most sales tax dollars elsewhere. With single road connections to I-70, both towns have not yet begun to see traffic bottlenecks. The town board that doesn’t find a way to pay for the traffic coming their way had better have a supply of earplugs on hand in coming years.It is not surprising the two are being courted by the same national retailers who could instantly create a “winner” and “loser” for revenues while greatly impacting both towns with traffic. It is very possible that the non-hosting town could see a LOSS in existing sales tax revenue. The economic consultant for Red Mountain Ranch said that wherever a major anchor lands, other retailers will gravitate, creating a windfall of sales tax dollars. Other locations will suffer until that first location is built out. What is surprising and dramatic is that with the stakes so high the two Towns signed an intergovernmental agreement in which the town that hosts regional retail will share 40 percent of 2 percent of these additional sales tax dollars with the other town for 15 years, giving the non-hosting town time to stand on its own. The agreement is vulnerable to a variety of challenges from voters or elected officials due to nuances in state law and TABOR. The inherent fairness of the deal, I hope, will be enough for it to weather the annual appropriations by the host town board. It is an exciting agreement in an awkward time. My feeling is that this will be a model for future local partnerships as state and federal budgets tighten. Let’s continue down this road.Jon Stavney is the mayor of Eagle.Vail, Colorado


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