New Guard Takes Charge In Cripple Creek

Key Business and Development Pursuits Move Forward

Rick Langenberg

It was in with the new guard in Cripple Creek last week and out with the old, as a new group of leaders officially took their elected positions on the council.

At the same time, it was business as usual for a spree of development and permit requests, as several key projects moved to the next step.  These included one of the most ambitious annexation and land swaps in years, a hotel and restaurant license for the new Chamonix Casino and Hotel and a permit for the city’s first marijuana business, the High Stakes Leafery.

The meeting, though, was marked mostly by ceremonial speeches and congratulatory comments.

The two main mayoral candidates in the race for mayor (Melissa Trenary and Annie Durham) were praised for conducting rather positive campaigns that focused on the issues and refrained from any personal attacks and mud-slinging.

Teller County Commissioner Dan Williams described the tone of the mayoral campaign as quite refreshing. He cited this as an example that other municipalities and entities should follow.  “It was a clean race,” commented former Teller County Assessor Colt Simmons. At the same time,  both Williams and Simmons urged the new leaders to work towards preserving the past, as much as they could.

They said the town is facing a growth expansion that is quite unprecedented. Simmons believes the current council could set the template for growth in Cripple Creek for the next 85 years, based on the current flurry of development interest in Cripple Creek. The town is expected to experience a huge increase in population, based on a huge volume of proposed  housing ventures.

A Good-bye to old leaders and Welcome of a New Guard

The council then conducted its formal swearing-in ceremonies. Departing council member Tom Litherland, who served for eight years and previously as mayor, thanked the citizens for their support. He said he tried also to offer a little  common sense and humor during his stint with the council.

Then with few delays, Annie Durham took the oath as the new mayor. She was accompanied in the proceedings by her husband, Beva Leyerly.

Cody Schwab, who ran as a write-in candidate, then took the oath as a council member. He was joined in the proceedings by his daughter Brynn.

In addition, Jared Bowman, who ran unopposed in his re-election bid, was reaffirmed as a member of the council.

The final gesture of leadership change occurred when current Acting Mayor Melissa Trenary exchanged the meeting gavel over to Durham. Trenary will continue her role as a council member for the next two years.

In other formalities with the city’s inaugural meeting, the council, with  no dissent, appointed Bruce Brown as the mayor pro tem. This is an assignment, Brown, who served as a previous Cripple Creek mayor for 10 years, held in 2023.

Development and Business Activity Continues Non-stop

The new council wasted little time on Jan. 3 getting down to business, as the leaders faced major requests on major projects.

In probably their most important action, the council gave the green light for the final reading of a major annexation pursuit near Mt. Pisgah Cemetery, referred to as the Gibraltar development project. Part of this nearly 80-acre area involves a land swap with the city of Cripple Creek.

Mike Beattie, a representative for Gibraltar, said their development group has been working on this project for two years. “We look forward to the partnership with the city,” said Beattie.

He didn’t get any arguments from the council. “It is a win-win,” said Mayor Annie Durham, in commenting on the land exchange with the city and the overall annexation bid and future project.

The project, which will eventually head into the zoning and land use stage once the annexation notification process is concluded, could result in a slew of commercial and housing pursuits, including workforce housing. Most of the housing will consist of single-family and multi-family dwelling. It is one of the biggest development project on the table in Cripple Creek.

“It meets the criteria (of our annexation requirements),” said building official Ken Hartsfield. Under one possible scenario, some initial aspects of the project could begin in the spring of 2024.

The council unanimously passed the annexation request.

In other significant business bids, the council granted the Chamonix Casino and Hotel a retail liquor license, moving this massive project onto the next stage.

This license, though, can’t really be fully completed until a permanent certificate of occupancy permit is issued. That approval is pending the completion of Chamonix’s forthcoming restaurant, the 980 Prime, expected to be finished in February.

Mid-July is slated as the deadline for the final project completions, based on permit extensions with the city.

The Chamonix had a preliminary opening on Dec. 27, when it opened about 130 rooms and the gaming area and the main lobby. Some of its main amenities, such as a rooftop pool and spa, will be open later in the year.

Also, at last week’s meeting, the council okayed a license for its first retail marijuana dispensary, High Stakes Leafery, located at a site on Hwy. 67 South, formerly occupied by Pearl’s Place Day Spa.  The new dispensary was slated to open on Jan. 8. Their hours of operation are Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and from Friday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Prior to the council’s approval, city attorney Erin Smith gave an overview of the city’s marijuana scenario, a development that had its genesis with voter approval in Nov. 2022 of two related ballot issues that opened the door for retail cannabis in Cripple Creek on a limited basis. Smith noted that the applicants, Laura and Robert Smith, had complied with all the requirements and fully answered a detailed evaluation criterion.

Under the city’s new marijuana regulations, the town is allowing two recreational/medical dispensaries to operate. However, to date, it has only received one application.