by Rick Langenberg
While New Jersey has “Bridge-gate” with the latest furor over Governor Chris Christie and the George Washington Bridge, Cripple Creek is reeling with tales of “Alley-gate.”
Last week, the future of a bid to vacate an alley next to the Aspen Mine Center in Cripple Creek for a future expansion by Century Casino, continued to stir more debate. And once again, the town’s historic tiny alleyways are clashing with modern gaming realities, pitting future expansions against the rights of adjacent property owners.
Century has sought approval of a 100-foot alley vacation of a city roadway, if it makes certain concessions, as part of a future expansion bid. General manager Eric Rose has lauded this plan as good for the future development of their property and for the town.
But from the get-go, their request has experienced opposition from representatives of the Aspen Mine Center and Triple Crown Casinos.
During last week’s hearing, these concerns resurfaced again. Mary Bielz, director of Community of Caring, which runs the Aspen Mine Center, described the small roadway as the most utilized alley in Cripple Creek. She cited concerns over the process and the fact that the alley vacation ordinance was approved by the city council during an initial review in mid-December with no public comment and little notification for the property owners involved. “We were blind-sided,” said Bielz, in reference to a previous hearing last month.
“We are stake-holders,” stressed the Community of Caring director, who expressed a concern about the Aspen Mine Center getting land-locked with the alley change. “We serve 200 families,” said Bielz, who said this development could impact their clients.
At the same time, she praised Rose for working with the Aspen Mine Center in allowing their customers and clients to use adjacent parking areas, owned by Century. “Eric Rose has always been a great neighbor for the Aspen Mine Center,” said Bielz. In addition, she stressed that the Aspen Mine has been a strong proponent of growth.
Scott Porter, a representative of the Triple Crown Casinos, said they supported growth in community also, but were worried about access to their buildings and two new lots they have recently purchased, located in the area under consideration. Porter said their company still hasn’t decided how it will use these lots. “We just want access to the back of our buildings,” said Porter.
Jim Blasing, the public works and utilities director of the city, agreed that the Triple Crown lot acquisition would change the results of an earlier consultant study on the alley vacation request, which gave the plan a thumbs-up.
Rose stated that nothing has really changed since the previous hearing, and emphasized that the Aspen Mine would not be landlocked or negatively affected in any way. Under the proposal, Century would be required to break ground on a new building expansion by early 2018.
After struggling with a variety of potential scenarios, the city council agreed to consider developing a one-way thoroughfare in the area, aimed at addressing some of the concerns of the adjacent landowners. But the details still have to get worked out.
The alley vacation issue will be addressed again in early March after more research can be done