Cripple Creek Betting Big on New Master Plan

Price Tag for Future “Road Map” Expected to Exceed $300,000

Rick Langenberg

The city of Cripple Creek is hedging its bets on a $300,000-plus master plan project, aimed at giving the town a much needed “road map” to guide its future, and providing its first-ever comprehensive economic development and tourism study and revitalization plan.

The timing of the project is critical, with the extent of development and community activity expected in Cripple Creek over the next decade. According to some estimates, the population in Cripple Creek could double in the near future and the town could bustle with a lot more signature lodging and housing projects.

The good news is that the bulk of the money to fund the effort is not coming from the city.

The bad news is that the project is quite complex and will require a variety of consultants and grants and could take more than two years to complete.

But in a special meeting last week, the council gave City Administrator Frank Salvato his marching orders to move the effort forward as fast as possible. “Let’s get it done,” said Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Brown. Other council members expressed similar views and heavily endorsed the new master plan project.

The council, at the administrator’s request approved a $110,000 request through the Strong Communities Grant Program (state funds established by the legislature) with the lion’s share coming from the state, and the city just having to pay $11,000 in matching funds.

This grant is aimed at helping the city with its forthcoming master plan by footing the bill for an outside consultant to assist with the project and  to facilitate the updating of the city’s development codes, details that are often overlooked by communities when crafting master plans. This latter part could pose a challenge for the city with its limited staff.

Not a Cheap Endeavor

Altogether, Salvato estimated that the price of the project, with all the different aspects of the proposed master plan, will exceed $300,000. And with this level of detail and expenses, the city administrator wants the public to buy into the project. “We want the casinos to be involved. We want the public to be involved. That is very important.”

He was referring to comments, many aired on social media, surrounding concerns over a hefty amount of private money being thrown into the project.

A good portion of the forthcoming master plan bill is being funded by Dan Lee, the chief executive officer of Full House Resorts, which owns Bronco Billy’s, and is the company that has spearheaded the new $300 million Chamonix resort project.

Full House wants to take a lead role in moving ahead with the project’s economic development and tourism phase, an important and crucial part of the overall plan and one that never got that much attention in past master plan go-arounds.  Full House plans to be strongly involved in the hiring process for a consultant for this component of the plan.

Salvato, though, made it clear that Lee and Chamonix won’t “drive the results,” and that this will become a very public process.  Instead, he sees Lee’s role as pivotal in getting the process rolling for the selection of a consultant to handle this part of the project. Separate consultants will be involved in different phases of the plan.

Since the announcement of the master plan project, some concerns have developed regarding this plan becoming a Chamonix resort venture.

Salvato stressed that Lee will definitely be an active player in the process, especially with their commitment of $100,000, but that all of the project pieces still have to get the green light from the state Department of Local Affairs.

One point has been made clear in past meetings: Cripple Creek is in definite need of a comprehensive plan update. The town is well outside of the timeline for refining its current plan, with the most recent comprehensive planning document crafted well more than 10 years ago.

Salvato stressed that a key component of the project involves public input and participation, as this is often a key  factor in determining the success or failure of a master plan project.

Cripple Creek is slightly behind the curve ball, when it comes to updating its master plan.

Both the cities of Woodland Park and Green Mountain Falls completed similar projects in recent years. However, they crafted their future planning blueprints with much smaller price tags, totaling about $100,000 in each community.

Master plan ventures in local communities in Colorado, though, have become much more expensive and time consuming than ones done in past years. Ultimately, they require a considerable amount of grant funds.