Council Okays Housing Bid; Encounters More Event Cancellations
Talk about déjà vu again, but without the hefty volley of public comment and legal threats.
Full House Resorts, the owner of Bronco Billy’s Casino, received the okay last week for an adjustment to previous plans for a significant city road vacation of Second Street and an adjacent alley to make room for a major $70 million-plus hotel development, expected to get underway this year.
Within seconds flat, the council gave the go-ahead for Full House’s revised plans, which now include a bid for a 300-room hotel and an indoor parking garage. A public hearing on the details of the new hotel proposal will occur in early February.
Last week’s proceedings just dealt with an administrative/planning matter, involving the street vacation request.
This was part of plans originally approved in 2018, following considerable public comment and debate. At the time, Full House Resorts was seeking a project of special merit designation, meaning it would receive considerably more leeway from the city’s historic preservation rules and planning guidelines. The street vacation was cited as a major component of this effort.
This request sparked considerable debate and even a legal threat. But in the end, most residents and civic leaders appeared to favor the possible arrival of a new four-star hotel and a spree of amenities. The project was cited as a turning point for a new era of development.
But when the coronavirus epidemic struck, Full House Resorts put this project on hold. However, in recent months, company and casino representatives expressed a desire to resume action on the development, and to build the project in a more fast-track manner, instead of doing it in stages.
With the new street vacation bids, the applicant has until Dec. 31, 2022 to complete the project.
At last week’s hearing, no objections were rendered. Public Works Director Steve DiCamillo asked if an adequate performance bond would be implemented, in case the project doesn’t get built. Similar concerns were raised by Councilwoman Melissa Trenary.
Dan Lee, the chief executive officer of Full House Resorts, stated that the original bond, estimated at several million dollars, would be placed on the table again. “It is already in place,” said Lee.
The council voted 4-0 to approve the street vacations.
The only council member who didn’t support the request was Meghan Rozell, who abstained from tallies on both the Second Street and alley vacations. She indicated that she wanted to see more details regarding the project.
In past comments, Rozell has expressed concerns about the lack of progress with the development. Last year, the council, at Lee’s request, rescinded the vast majority of the performance bond, when the project was placed on hold due to the coronavirus epidemic.
However, in a later presentation before the council, Lee made it clear their company was committed to proceeding with the development.
In the newest bid by Bronco Billy’s, both the parking garage and hotel would bet constructed simultaneously, with construction starting in 2021.
City leaders are definitely rooting for the development. The addition of new hotels and amenities has been mentioned as a big plus for the town. The passage of Amendment 77, a pro-gambling proposition clearing the way of many new games and unlimited wagers, could open the door for this trend, according to investors.
Besides the Bronco Billy’s development, other new casino/hotel additions include Triple Crown and Century
Meanwhile, the Wildwood casino is expected to open its new 100-plus-room hotel in 2021.
Housing Bid Approved; Special Events Update
In other development action, the city council also last week approved a rezoning request to open the door for the construction of two new single-family homes. The project involved a 1.75-acre area, previously zoned as an industrial designation. The land is located, south of Bennett Avenue, near the Gold Fever Inn.
City planners, though, contend that the area is more suited to residential development, and supported the change, even though it is located within the gaming overlay.
The plan was proposed by Robert Regester. With the town facing a big crisis in the lack of affordable housing, the plan was warmly welcomed by city leaders. Former Mayor Bruce Brown also endorsed the proposal. “It is a good idea,” said Brown. “We have always had a problem with housing.”
“Let’s get some houses built,” added Trenary.
The council approved the request unanimously.
In other news, the town got another somber report regarding its special event situation. Marketing and Special Events Director Jeff Mosher said that two more cancellations have occurred in recent weeks, resulting from no city event funds for 2021. These include the annual Fall Fest and the Pearl Follies.
But on the upside, he said the Pearl DeVere Days is a go, but with a later time in the summer. Plus, the city plans to still do a mega July 4th celebration.
Mosher conceded that the recent decision to cancel the Ice Fest, usually held in February, was a tough move. “There was just too much risk,” said Mosher. “That decision was difficult.”
That festival has typically been well received by casino operators, residents and visitors.
Mosher noted that the Ice Fest committee is gearing up for a bigger and better festival in 2022.
Although the city has yanked funds from local events this year due to the coronavirus epidemic, the stage is still open for nonprofits to organize events on their own, with the city playing a small role in providing services, according to the marketing chief. Mosher told the council that his department has compiled a Special Event Application and a comprehensive guide for interested parties. He indicated their department could play a facilitating role, even if the city didn’t offer funding.
“Cripple Creek is known for their events,” said Mosher.