Friday, September 2, 2011

Mountain Town News


By ALLEN BEST - MTN TOWN NEWS SERVICE

Group tells Dollar Store to stay away

RIDGWAY, Colo.—Hang the low prices, a good number of people in Ridgway don't want a Family Dollar Store. The wildly successful chain store has rights to build in Ridgway, a gateway to Telluride and other towns of the western San Juan Mountains. But 700 people have signed a petition saying stay away.

"We all moved here because we wanted to get away from life in big cities that are full of Wal-Marts and big-box stores," said opposition leader Vicci Spencer, who organized a group called CPR, or Citizens to Preserve Ridgway.

"We like the character of our little, small town, and its aesthetics are very important to us," she told the Telluride Watch.

But is a Family Dollar Store a manifestation of urban America? Or a tradition that more closely resembles the franchise retailers found in mid-century small-town America?

Main streets in small towns all used to have Gamble's and Coast to Coast, for hardware needs, and Ben Franklin's, Duckwall's and a host of others for miscellaneous items. Later, a chain called Gibson's arrived, being a smaller-town equivalent to the K-Marts and Targets of cities.

For that matter, plenty of small towns now have Family Dollars. You can find them in every farm town.

Citing a recent New York Times story, The Watch reports that Family Dollar stores have been thriving during the time of economic decline. The company sees its core customers as a female head of household in her mid-40s who is making less than $40,000 a year.

More affluent households are now driving the growth of the chain, which is planning 200 more stores. These more upscale households are shopping at Family Dollar to save money, wanting to preserve their affluence or worried about their continued livelihoods.

Colorado framing the terms for Olympic bid

DENVER, Colo.—Colorado politicians have begun to frame the terms under which Denver and Colorado will seek to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. They're asking for clear indication of public support, and they expect the business community to step up to take leadership.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, a former mayor of Denver, told The Denver Post there must be clear dividends for the state. He cited improved exercise programs and transportation improvements.

"It could prove to be a powerful incentive to find a solution to solving the challenge of getting up to the mountains on I-70 during the weekends," he said.

Salt Lake City and Whistler both gained substantial transportation improvements prior to hosting the Olympics in 2002 and 2010, respectively. In Salt Lake's case, it got federal funding for expansion of light rail and for a substantial improvement to the interstate highways that bisect the metropolitan area.

Hickenlooper said neither Denver nor Colorado would be eager to assemble a bid on their own, because government resources are badly depleted by the down economy. There's where the business community would really need to come in to help.

"If the people of the state seem willing, my suspicion is the business community will step in," he said.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock had similar sentiments.

"It's a very expensive process to go after," he told The Post.

Former Gov. Dick Lamm, who led the drive in 1972 to end the state subsidy for the 1976 Olympics, resulting in the withdrawn offer to host the Games, remains skeptical.

"The history of the Winter Olympics has been soaked in red ink," he said. "But I know that those five ... rings are so glittery that they can distort people's judgment."

Bag fees debated in 3 Colorado towns

ASPEN, Colo.—By Aspen standards, the brouhaha about a 20-cent fee being considered for plastic bags amounts to little more than midday pleasantries.

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"Aren't you guys aware of what this will do to the tourist trade?" asked one Linda Hayes in a letter published in the Aspen Daily News. "Every time they buy something and are hit with that fee, they will have a very negative impression of Aspen."

"This is about government power and control, and has nothing to do with plastic bags," wrote Sheldon Fingerman. "It's another one of Aspen's infamous 'feel good' ordinances that really doesn't accomplish anything."

On the flip side was Travis LaSalle. "Considering the minor economic impact the bag fee will have on individuals, opposition to the fee seems to me to represent nothing more than stubborn attachment to the ways of the past."

With only one dissent, the Aspen council voted to approve the fee on first reading. A second reading will be necessary. The lone dissenting council member reasoned that if Aspen were going to impose a fee, it might as well ban plastic bags altogether from the city's two grocery stores.

Down-valley at Basalt, the town council there also approved a fee, but did not set a price, reports the Aspen Times. A third town, Carbondale, is scheduled to take up the matter in September.

According to Aspen's Community Office for Resource Efficiency, the average American uses 400 disposable grocery bags per year. If that figure held true in Aspen, and the 20-cent fee is enacted, it would yield $80 per person, or about $434,000 altogether from local residents, not counting tourists.

Some of the money will be returned to grocery stores for administration of the program, and the balance is to be used for educational purposes. Still, there was some question whether 20 cents wasn't too much.

In Steamboat Springs, city officials are scheduled to consider a similar 20-cent fee. From early statements by elected officials and the editor of the Steamboat Pilot, the idea has little chance of success.

The newspaper, in an editorial, urges a volunteer program. It envisions reusable bag kiosks at the front of the two grocery stores and Wal-Mart. The kiosks could be stocked with thousands of reusable bags for shoppers to take freely. Shoppers also could drop reusable bags at the kiosks. Property management companies could collect bags left behind by visitors and return them to the kiosks or make them available to new guests.

It further envisions local businesses' donating bags—brandished with the businesses' logo and advertising messages—to the program.

"Shoppers wouldn't have to feel guilty about forgetting their reusable bags. More importantly, they wouldn't be charged unnecessarily for that minor sin," said the newspaper.

Wolf reported in Park City—biologist skeptical

PARK CITY, Utah—A wolf, said the caller, had wandered down a street in a local subdivision, entered a garage and left. But the local wildlife authorities doubt the story. More likely, it was a husky or a German shepherd.

"I would be extremely shocked if it was a wolf," said Bruce Johnson, a state wildlife officer. "This is not normal wolf behavior."

Wolves have ventured into Utah from the Yellowstone region, and one was living last year in the Uinta Range, about an hour east of Park City.

Aspen moves forward on affordable housing

ASPEN, Colo.—While there are many off-ramps, Aspen city officials have moved forward on the second phase of an affordable housing project called Burlingame Ranch.

This next phase would consist of 167 affordable housing units built during the next five to six years. However, the city is not looking to start construction for at least another year.

The Aspen Daily News reports that a key question for city officials is how soon the units will be needed. About 190 people put their names on a pre-sales list.

Still, there are worries about saturation of the market. An existing owner of deed-restricted housing earlier this summer urged the city to wait on new housing, lest the market be diluted and no buyers would be available should he want to sell his unit.

Chris Everson, the affordable housing program manager, said the city may also look at job growth and income distribution statistics in considering whether to go forward with more housing.




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