Resort-town trip planned
Frank Bell paced the hallways at the Marsac Building for 20 years, ending in 2002, watching Park City boom from his positions as the chief of police and Olympic planner.
He now runs the town hall in Telluride, Colo., another bustling mountain resort and one of Park City’s competitors. Bell later this year plans to greet a group of Park City leaders who are scheduled to visit Telluride and Moab as part of City Hall’s annual ‘city tour,’ a trip meant to teach the Parkites how other resorts in the West operate.
"The agenda from resort community to resort community is about the same," says Bell, who has been the town manager in Telluride since spring 2006. "It varies in intensity."
The Parkites on the tour, planned for Sept. 5-9, typically hear from a roster of government officials, not-for-profit group leaders, businesspeople and activists. The organizer, Public Affairs Director Myles Rademan, sees the trips as smart ways to introduce the Parkites to how other communities are run. The tour-goers, expected to number between 60 and 65, are scheduled to spend two nights in Telluride and two nights in Moab.
"Telluride is very sophisticated. Moab is not nearly as sophisticated," Rademan says, describing Telluride as having "clung to ’60s-’70s sensibility."
In Telluride, Bell says, the Parkites will listen to presentations about growth, affordable housing, business and conserving open space. The issues there resemble those that the Marsac Building handles regularly. Telluride is a famous mountain resort and in the summer hosts a calendar of festivals, including a heralded gathering of bluegrass fans.
Bell talks about a critical open-space deal in Telluride, known as the ‘Valley Floor.’ He says $50 million was spent to purchase 570 acres. Half the money is from a bond and the rest was raised through private-sector donations.
Meanwhile, he describes the Telluride government’s efforts to build restricted affordable housing, talking of 14 units the Town Hall built in 2006 and another 18 under construction. Three more projects are under consideration.
"There’s certainly demand for it. We do rental and sales and there’s demand for both," Bell says, describing the housing market in Telluride as especially tight with the town’s isolated location in the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado.
He says some workers commute 65 miles from Montrose to avoid Telluride’s steep housing prices.
Bell says he lives in a restricted unit of affordable housing in Mountain Village, a high-altitude, slopeside community just outside of Telluride. He commutes on a gondola that runs between Mountain Village and Telluride.
Telluride, with about 2,400 people, is smaller than Park City and Bell describes the town as having a "unique culture" and reminding him of Park City in the early 1980s.
"Telluride is a throwback to another era," he says.
In Moab, Dave Sakrison, the mayor, speaks of similarities between Park City and his community, saying the two cities are "pretty progressive" and "pretty forward thinking."
"I think we share like visions," Sakrison says, praising Park City’s efforts to increase business, build infrastructure and preserve open space. "It’s just amazing what Park City has been able to accomplish."
He says Moab is committed to cleaner-burning energy like wind-generated power and says about 15 percent of the people there have signed up to purchase the alternative energy. Between 5 and 6 percent of the city’s energy is generated from wind, he says.
But, different from Park City and Telluride, Sakrison says Moab officials do not aggressively seek options for affordable housing. He says some developers are building the housing on their own and a task force is considering public-sector options. He says a problem is the limited inventory of land for affordable housing because the federal government owns large swaths of acreage there.
Moab’s economy is heavy on tourism, drawing big numbers in the spring and the fall. Lots of people traveling to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park use Moab as a base and mountain bikers and off-road Jeep enthusiasts also converge on Moab.
Some Parkites have vacation homes in Moab and others have business interests there. Parkites typically flock there in March, April and May, seeking warmer weather and a weekend away from Park City’s snows. Still, Rademan says the stop will be worthy for the trip-goers.
"At least half the people on this tour have never been to Moab," Rademan says.
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Arlene Loble served as the Park City manager in the 1980s, a pivotal period that prepared the community for the boom years that would follow in the 1990s. Loble, who recently died, is credited with introducing a level of professionalism to the municipal government that was needed amid the growth challenges.