~By Rick Langenberg~
City officials are not going to budge when it comes to more flexibility regarding key life/safety and fire code regulations, even regarding historic homes.
However, if the city council wants to overturn their rulings, that’s their prerogative.
This was one of the themes that emerged from last week’s Cripple Creek City Council meeting, highlighted by an extensive level of public comment.
Issues have arisen dealing with code standards for short-term rental units (STRs), especially when it come into the areas of life and safety rules, and new guidelines
A few residents noted that these could impact several old historic houses, and how difficult it would become to meet certain regulations pertaining to door width and windows. Their concerns resonated with several members of the city council, who explained the age of many homes. With the new STR process, more residents may try to turn old homes into STR vacation units or rentals.
But City Administrator Frank Salvato stood firm on this issue, and made it clear that his staff couldn’t show much leniency regarding rules regarding life/safety issues, such as door width for at least one entrance, and window-related access, in case of a fire.
He cited an instance during his time in Texas when a top official ended up getting incarcerated because they took this action to amend the rules. “We are not going to loosen the codes for life/safety,” said Salvato,
One of the big concerns in this life/safety arena deals with the fact that more homes are going to become short-term rental units, meaning visitors and renters could be impacted. With the new guidelines, potential STR units must comply with certain standards.
That said, Salvato said he had no problem with a property owner trying to appeal a denial before the city council. He said the council could function, in essence, as the appellate court. In fact, last week he halted the public debate with one resident, in case an appeal is filed, and offered to provide the proper information to the property owner to get that process started.
One local resident told the council last that their home could almost resemble a museum and they didn’t want to lose the historic flavor of the community. Some have feared they can’t meet the new standards, and opted for a compromise.
The council has sympathized with these concerns, but they didn’t challenge the city administrator’s explanation at last week’s meeting.
A Good Start For 2023 and Aspen Mine Thank Yous
In other city news, Cripple Creek Finance Director Paul Harris reported some good news regarding casino winnings, with adjusted gross proceeds experiencing a 4.6 percent hike from the same period last year. “We are off to a good start,” said Harris. On the downside, the town’s overall volume of play, referred to as coin-in, was down slightly.
Overall, Harris appeared pleased with the latest numbers for January, which usually indicate a slight slump, since they follow the holiday period.
And last week, Ted Borden, executive director of Community of Caring, thanked the community and especially the city of Cripple Creek for the support they showed during the opening of the Aspen Mine West facility, which featured a grand opening ceremony last summer. This facility represented an impressive renovation of a building once housed by the Madame June’s casino.
The city served as the funding agency to help orchestrate a major grant from the state to enable the building to get purchased and turned into part of the Aspen Mine agency.
It now serves as the home for a plethora of community services and social service agencies. It replaces many of the functions that formerly occurred at the Aspen Mine East building, which now serves more as a commodity center and thrift shop.
He complimented the work of several top city officials for making this project a reality. In turn, the city was handed a special plaque, showcasing some amazing art work, for their contributions.
Long-time community leader Mary Bielz also enthusiastically touted the accomplishments of many people in the area. “We are in the trenches to help people,” said Bielz.
The council last week also moved forward on its ambitious bid to plan for close to $10 million in developing better infrastructure to help pave the way for affordable housing. The initial step involves an engineering study to develop better water and sewer lines.
Eventually, the city will expand its wastewater treatment plant. Much of these improvements hinge on grants.