Fraser considers economic development proposal

Hank Shell
Art Ferrari / Special to the Sky-Hi News
Staff Photo |

Fraser developer Clark Lipscomb has been talking about economic development for a while now, and it seems that Fraser town staff have been listening.

Lipscomb spoke at the Fraser Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday night, Oct. 7, to argue for comprehensive economic policies to encourage business recruitment and retention in the town.

Before Lipscomb’s presentation, Town Manager Jeff Durbin distributed a proposed resolution that would direct staff to get to work on identifying and implementing programs and strategies to promote economic development in the town.

Lipscomb had previously sent the town a list of proposed incremental rebates on taxes and construction-related fees and public/private partnerships that could facilitate building and secure state and federal dollars for new development.

“To me a strong local economy, ensuring that our existing businesses are healthy and vibrant, finding ways to diversify our local economy and continue to have a strong economy into the future, is vitally important to this organization.”Jeff DurbinFraser town manager

“We would very much like to go build some buildings, but the economics of building the types of buildings we would like to build, that we think are on par with some of the resort communities that we compete with, really aren’t supported in this valley,” Lipscomb said, referring to what he says are exorbitant costs of building in the town due to taxes and fees.

New development would attract more jobs to Fraser, Lipscomb said.

Though the proposal focused on new development in Grand Park, Lipscomb said any economic incentives should be applied to the whole of Fraser.

“I would hope that the town recognizes that we need to do something to more or less level the playing field to improve the economics of our marketplace to attract businesses,” Lipscomb said.

Economic development has been a part of Fraser’s inner dialogue and planning over the last few years. The town allocated $100,000 to economic development in its 2015 budget.

Fraser has also participated in discussions about economic development in the Fraser Valley with the Town of Winter Park and the Winter Park-Fraser Chamber of Commerce since June.

An assessment is forthcoming from those discussions.

For Fraser, which generates a large majority of its revenue from sales tax, economic development would work toward a more secure revenue stream, Durbin said.

“What I lose sleep over is Safeway is our primary retailer in the Town of Fraser,” Durbin said. “If something were to happen to Safeway, our revenues would drop dramatically.”

A strong and diverse local economy would help offset that risk, Durbin said.

“To me a strong local economy, ensuring that our existing businesses are healthy and vibrant, finding ways to diversify our local economy and continue to have a strong economy into the future, is vitally important to this organization,” Durbin said.

But residents were hesitant to embrace the incentives laid out in Lipscomb’s proposal.

Resident Sam Brewer asked that the board do its due diligence in approving any Tax Increment Financing program for development in the town.

“The most important question for Fraser regarding a TIF is, “What does it do for Fraser?,” Brewer asked.

Lipscomb proposed a tiered rebate system for sales, lodging, construction materials and other taxes and fees rather than Tax Increment Financing, which would require formation of a special district and allocation of public money to fund new development.

Resident Monica Sandstrom questioned why the town would give a developer tax incentives while asking for a tax increase to fund public transit.

Trustee Andy Miller said he didn’t want to see the cost of living increase.

“Anytime we talk about an incentive for a new business I want to know that that incentive doesn’t come out of anybody’s pocket but the person who’s benefitting from it,” Miller said.

Trustee Jane Mather said she disagreed with incentivizing development.

“My sense is developers should pay their full costs,” Mather said. “That’s their decision whether or not they want to develop, and it’s not our responsibility to provide those incentives.”

Mayor Peggy Smith said the town needed to work toward allocating funds for some type of economic development as part of the 2016 budget.

Town staff will bring a copy of the economic development resolution with minor revisions before the board at its Oct. 21 meeting.

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