Space to Create will find new site, Grand Lake mayor says

This conceptual rendering included in the July 22 Grand Lake Board of Trustees meeting packet shows a Space to Create project that could fit on open space next to the Grand Lake Center.
Town of Grand Lake

Satisfying those who opposed a workforce housing project on open space next to the Grand Lake Center, ArtSpace has abandoned those plans.

The nonprofit developer’s decision to stop pursuing the project designed for artists on its desired location will send the Space to Create project back to the site selection process, said Grand Lake Mayor Steve Kudron, as he revealed the news Tuesday during a workshop meeting at the center.

“So now I’m going to tell you what you’ve all been waiting for,” Kudron said after he had spent a fair amount of time detailing the Grand Lake Center’s history, defending his vision for it and challenging the community to be more civil toward each other. “The ArtSpace team has come to me and said they would like to find another spot.”

During his remarks, Kudron said accusations he has any financial interest in the project are lies, and he pushed back on other personal attacks he said he’s faced over this.

“The people who may not like me, that’s part of politics, you can say what you want, but I want all of you — my constituents, my neighbors — to know that I don’t do that,” Kudron said of having any involvement in a marijuana dispensary. “I sell rubber duckies. I make fudge. I try to figure out how to bring money into this town, and that’s where we need help.”

Local interest in the project has been intense. Before the town meeting began, people at the door were being turned away, told the workshop had reached a 50 person capacity and they would have to watch the live feed being streamed on the town’s Facebook page.

Intent on hearing what was going on inside, a small group sat quietly around an iPad outside the center, the sound so faint it was hard to hear. At the same time, others migrated to an open side door, where they sat and stood outside with the sound coming through more clearly.

What they heard wasn’t like other town trustee workshops, as Kudron did most of the talking and public comments were not allowed.

The get-together followed a July 22 public forum, in which dozens of residents expressed their concerns with the developer’s desired site, while only a handful favored the idea. Some of the biggest criticisms involved fears the town would lose open space around the center or control of the center itself.

“I understand how important it is that we do nothing to hurt the integrity and the history of the Grand Lake Center,” Kudron emphasized on Tuesday.

Overall, most people in Grand Lake have been highly supportive of the project, won through a competitive state process and well beyond the scope of anything the town could do on its own for a project like this. However, many locals hated the idea of using open space around the Grand Lake Center for it.

Passed out on Tuesday and posted online Wednesday, Kudron also released a three-page letter detailing the town’s position on the project, its relationship with the developer and trying to dispel some of the misinformation with a series of FAQs about the project.

An open letter of response regarding our Town’s Space to Create project.

Posted by Town of Grand Lake on Wednesday, August 5, 2020

“You need to leave today knowing that the Grand Lake Center is important to each and every one of us who are making the decisions for you as it is to you,” Kudron told the crowd. “But that gives us a pickle.”

He explained the town spends more than $2,000 per resident every year to keep the Grand Lake Center afloat, and they can’t be complacent with the status quo. He described the center on the upswing but still very much in its infancy and in need of more help.

In addition to announcing that ArtSpace would be revisiting the site selection process, Kudron said the town would create a committee to craft a master plan for the Grand Lake Center and the town’s open space apart from the Space to Create project.

“And I want us to move forward with an ArtSpace project somewhere in town,” Kudron added. “I don’t think we can do it alone. We’re going to have to reach out and ask (a private property owner) to become a partner, too.”

Posted by Town of Grand Lake on Tuesday, August 4, 2020
A letter in opposition

To Whom It May Concern:

For the past several years the community of Grand Lake has been involved in the Space to Create project. It was a great honor for our small, rural, mountain town to be selected to be considered for this project. It is definitely a project that could bring many options to improve artistic endeavors while providing affordable housing for our community.

Unfortunately, the community of Grand Lake has expressed a deep concern for the manner in which a site has been selected. Against the advice of the previous town board and several community members the selection committee for Space to Create chose to target the Grand Lake Center (formerly our beloved Elementary School) as the place for the project. This is a residential area that is occupied by many year round residents as well as second home owners. It is several blocks from the center of town where the majority of the commercial buildings are located. It is not an easy walk to town from the location selected.

At a community meeting many residents and community members spoke out against the selection of this site. The town and community are at risk of losing their medical clinic, a church, the only indoor recreational site, the landing for Flight for Life helicopters, a meeting place for clubs and organizations, a wedding and family reunion venue, a variety of classes, private rental space, and a fitness center that is very well used.

During the winter months our small town has less than four hundred residents that live here full-time. This means that we are very isolated. The Center is the only place we have that allows us to interact in a social and educational manner. The medical clinic allows us to receive treatment without having to drive twenty minutes on icy highways.

The community meeting that the town board held sent the message loud and clear that the site is wrong—-not the project. No one spoke out against the need for affordable housing or the Space to Create project. An overwhelming majority of those in attendance did speak out against the site location. We have many other sites available in town that would better suit the needs of both our community and the project. A contract was signed with Space to Create to investigate SITES and yet only one site was brought forward. There was no explanation about why this is the only site that will be considered.

Transparency during this process has been lacking. The medical clinic, recreation district, local residents in the neighborhood, church officials, and community and business members were not advised of this selection nor of the meeting. The meeting was posted within the guidelines required by law but only at the very last moment. Even without being notified there were more than seventy people in attendance, over one hundred signed that they were against the site, and many spoke out against the selection of the site with valid reasons. The meeting was not recorded. No one from Art Space or Space to Create other than local representatives attended this meeting.

The community is receiving confusing information regarding how this project will be funded, how long it will take, who will be served, why this is the only location, and who will be responsible for the maintenance upkeep and management of the project when completed. Many questions have not been publicly discussed nor disclosed to the community. People are feeling like they have had important information hidden from them and would like to know exactly what our town is committing to before we just blindly accept the project at this site.

Our community is becoming angry over this issue. As more people are hearing about the site selection, the outcry is increasing. There has been talk of ordering banners to be hung from condo balconies and signs for yards saying they donʼt want Space to Create in their neighborhoods. Grand Lake is a tourist town with visitors from all over the nation—-do you want to send them this message? Artists are not going to want to come to an area where they do not feel accepted. This could all be prevented by choosing a different site—-again itʼs not the project the community is against it is the location.

Please reconsider the choice of location. It would help our community and make your project more accepted. Letʼs work together to find a solution rather than have division in our town.

— Phyllis Price, former Town Trustee (resigned due to family emergency), current home owner and resident of Grand Lake and Concerned citizen who wants the best for Grand Lake

— Kathy Weydert, full time, year round resident for 33 years

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