Cripple Creek Gears Up For $200,000 Master Plan Project


Town Joins Forces with Vegas Casino Company in Funding Future “Road Map”

Rick Langenberg

With what many see as an unprecedented level of growth, construction and expansion banging at the town’s doorstep, the city of Cripple Creek is preparing for its first major master plan project in nearly two decades.

Only this time, the city is partnering with a key Las Vegas development player in the gaming and lodging industry, namely Dan Lee, the chief executive officer of the Full House Resorts, owner of Bronco Billy’s and the new $300 million Chamonix Casino and Hotel.  Lee has agreed to have Full House Resorts (FHR) invest $100,000 into the comp plan update venture, as long as their money goes towards the specific funding of an intensive tourism and economic development study, which would be part of the overall master plan.

The city is way overdue in devising a new master plan, with their last one done in 2009.  And the timing couldn’t be more ideal, with several signature development and housing projects underway or crossing the finish line, or under consideration, including the Chamonix. Officials believe the city has the potential for a growth and population boom unrealized in decades and contend that a revised master plan is critical.

Last week, in one of their shorter council sessions in months, the Cripple Creek City Council signaled the initial green light for a memorandum of understanding between the city and Full House Resorts. This sets the stage for the comp plan update project, usually known as a master plan.

“I see it as a great opportunity,” said Mayor Annie Durham, at the close of the council’s Jan. 17 session.  She didn’t get any arguments from her fellow council peers, who praised the commitment towards this effort by Lee and Full House Resorts.

“He has an investment in the community,” said Cripple Creek City Administrator Frank Salvato. Lee, the real visionary behind the Chamonix project, has cited a big interest in working towards making Cripple Creek a destination area. This point is emphasized in a letter of support, submitted by Full House Resorts. “As a proud community member, FHR is excited to contribute to, and partner with, the city in its Comprehensive Plan efforts. DOLA’s (Department of Local Affairs) matching grant would allow the city to analyze its comprehensive long range planning goals, identify necessary changes to city plans and regulations, and realize its full potential as a thriving year-round destination for residents and visitors alike,” stated the Bronco Billy’s owners.

Under the memorandum of understanding, Full House Resorts’ funding portion of the project would go strictly towards the tourism and economic development part of the plan. This would give the city the necessary match to obtain a grant from the state’s Department of Local Affairs. The agreement is contingent on the city getting the DOLA grant.

If that occurs, then the process will get speed tracked in an effort to hire planning companies to undertake the work for the comprehensive plan, including a designated section dealing with tourism and economic development. A variety of consultants could be involved in the project, with the prospects of having two requests for proposals, with one dedicated to the tourism/economic development section.

Salvato expressed much optimism about the city getting grant dollars for a master plan update. He stated that this project is well overdue, with most master plans getting adjusted every five or 10 years. “It is a road map for the city,” said the administrator, in explaining the focus of the plan.

If Cripple Creek gets the grant, he expects meetings to start this summer, with a final product completed within 12 or so months.  A key portion of the master plan effort involves community input.

The council was quite supportive of the project, but asked Salvato if any of the funds could be used to help promote and market the effort to ensure that community input occurs.

The lack of community input was one shortcoming that occurred in the last go-around with the master plan, according to previous reports.

These master plan projects, however, are now commanding much more attention than previous efforts.   Woodland Park completed its latest comprehensive plan several years ago, as did the town of Green Mountain Falls. Both communities went through an exhaustive process and had high turnout at local meetings.

The price tag for these master plans, which generally take 12 to 18 months to complete, aren’t cheap. Salvato, in initial research, cited the $100,000 level for what Woodland Park invested into their project.

A Tribue to the Lays Family

In other city council news, the elected leaders took action last week to waive burial plot fees at the Mt. Pisgah Cemetery for families that have strong roots in the area. One of these involved a plot for Bob and Martha Lays, at the request of their son, Martin Lays. The Lays were the former owners of the Palace Hotel and a fixture in the community for years.

Although Bob and Martha Lays were not city residents, officials said their commitment to the area could not be overlooked. “They were here for 47 years,” stressed Renee Mueller, a historic preservation and planning coordinator for the city. “When they still lived in Cripple Creek the Lays family were very active members of the community. The Lays Brothers can still be found using their talented voices at fund raisers for the Victorian Society from time to time.”

The council agreed, citing the contribution the family made to Cripple Creek. They agreed to waive the $2,500 plot fee, which is usually required for non-residents.

Following this decision, Salvato stated that the city may consider revising its Mt. Pisgah rules and fees for long-time residents who have to leave the area due to health reasons.

The Mt. Pisgah Cemetery is one of the most popular burial sanctuaries in the region, with many requests for burial plots there.