Mountain News 

Aspen - Let's rock n roll

ASPEN, Colo. — Aspen’s economy continues to rip, with sales tax revenues posting a 13.6 per cent increase through February as compared with last year. Last year was also strong, with a 10.5 per cent increase compared to 2004.

"The size of the economic engine in town has reached a new level," said Paul Menter, finance director for Aspen. "We're in a different economy than we were two or three years ago."

However, he said that when adjusted for inflation, the numbers are only as large as those in the mid-1990s, before a great deal of hand-wringing began about the faltering tourism economy and questions about the shift toward a more real-estate-based economy.

While some concerns about the tourism market remain, lodging and nearly every other sector also rose. Still, those gains pale when compared with the surging housing market, where real estate transfer tax collections this year have increased by 83 per cent through March. And this increase is measured against last year’s extraordinary rise.

Other ski towns similarly report major increases in sales-tax revenues during January. Crested Butte was up 24.7 per cent, Silverthorne 21.6 per cent, Winter Park 19.9 per cent, Snowmass Village 14.2 per cent, Vail 12.2 per cent, and Steamboat 12 per cent. The down-valley town of Glenwood Springs bested them all, however, with a January increase of nearly 38 per cent. The gain resulted from the addition of several big-box stores and other national retail outlets.

Rural houses may be capped

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Routt County, where Steamboat Springs is located, is looking to get more aggressive in regulating the flow of big money real-estate projects into rural areas.

County officials are considering limiting the maximum home sizes. Colorado’s Pitkin County, which is where Aspen is located, and Wyoming’s Teton County, also known as Jackson Hole, have already done so in an effort to limit visual impact and the consumption of energy and other resources.

In Routt County, planning director Caryn Fox told The Steamboat Pilot & Today that the genesis of the conversation is the county comprehensive plan. That plan stresses the desirability of preserving the rural character of unincorporated areas of the county.

Pitkin County recently enacted regulations limiting home sizes to 15,000 square feet. The thinking, in part, is that the larger the home, the more that it needs employees such as caretakers, landscapers, and others making regular visits, thus taxing the roads and other infrastructures.

In Teton County, homes on smaller rural lots are limited to 10,000 square feet, including accessory structures, although incrementally larger parcels are allowed incrementally larger homes up to 15,000 square feet.

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