Town News

Catch Up With Council, March 9, 2021 – Gap Project Final Phase Plan, Promenade Discussion, Housing Strategies Discussion, Simplifying Tax Remittance

Proclamation- Recognizing Resilience and Gratitude Through One Year of Covid-19

Mayor Mortensen read a proclamation expressing gratitude for the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the first case of COVID-19 in Colorado was identified in Summit County, Colorado on March 5, 2020, 2.56 million people in the world, 518,000 people in the United States, and 6,063 people in Colorado have lost their lives to the virus. The normal course of daily life, from commerce, celebrations, education, gatherings, healthcare, travel, to arts, and culture have been disrupted in unprecedented ways across the world, Colorado, Summit County, and Frisco.

The Town of Frisco recognizes the extraordinary challenges of the past year, as well as the extraordinary actions of residents, businesses, employees, Summit Public Health, and healthcare providers, and acknowledges that there are brighter and better days ahead because of the outstanding efforts of the people in our community.

Colorado Department of Transportation Final Phase of the Highway 9 “Gap” Project

Representatives from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and SEMA Construction presented an update on the construction phasing for the final phase of the Highway 9 “Gap” Project in order to provide Town Council and the public with a better understanding of the work to be done and the potential effects it will have on Town operations and the traveling public. This final phase of Highway 9 improvements eliminated one-lane choke points between Frisco and Breckenridge.

In this last phase, CDOT and SEMA Construction will build a new roundabout at the intersection of 8th Avenue and Highway 9 to improve traffic flow; this will eliminate the left turn from Highway 9 onto Granite Street. In addition, improvements will be made to the intersection of Frisco Main Street and Highway 9, requiring the closure of that intersection to traffic for a period of time; hopefully limited to late spring/early summer. CDOT representatives stated that they will be able to work with the Town in regards to the Frisco Pedestrian Promenade and have acknowledged that there will be a significant increase in traffic on Granite Street with or without the reopening of the Frisco Pedestrian Promenade.

Summer 2021: Frisco Pedestrian Promenade Discussion

Town Council gave staff the direction to move forward with planning to reopen the Frisco Pedestrian Promenade for the summer of 2021. In 2020 in response to the need to provide a safe environment for residents and visitors and to support the success of local businesses, Town Council made the decision to transform Frisco Main Street from 2nd Avenue and 5th Avenue into the Frisco Pedestrian Promenade starting on June 12, 2020. The Pedestrian Promenade subsequently received largely positive feedback from many businesses as well as residents and visitors.

The decision in 2020 to create the Promenade was made after significant feedback from the local business community through survey responses and virtual business meetings. Businesses have acknowledged that while COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates are improving and vaccinations are being more widely administered, COVID-19 will likely still be an impactful and significant part of our lives and commercial activity through at least fall 2021, and businesses will need to continue to provide spaces which respect the COVID-19 health and safety concerns of their customers.

Town of Frisco staff issued a survey requesting feedback from the community and businesses about whether to reopen the Promenade and what improvements to make, open from March 1 through March 5th, 2021. Over 300 business owners, Frisco residents, and community members responded, with an overwhelming 85% of respondents in favor of reopening the Promenade. Many cited reasons such as feeling safer amidst the pandemic, feeling safer walking around without vehicle traffic, a friendlier community feel, and a benefit to local business. Of those who opposed the Promenade, reasons centered around traffic flow issues on Granite and Galena streets, additional traffic concerns with upcoming CDOT construction for the “Gap” Project, and an unequal patronage to business who were within the Promenade area versus those outside of the closure.

Town Council’s discussion covered the above concerns, and ultimately chose to move forward with Promenade in light of the overall benefit to the community, community feedback, and the additional time to plan more thoroughly and thoughtfully and make improvements. This year’s Promenade will aim for consistency of appearance and better aesthetics, as well as include more art elements.

Visioning Conversations for Frisco’s Future

During the January 23 and February 11 Town Council meeting, the Frisco Town Council worked with the Insights Collective team on Frisco’s current economic position and potential future scenarios for the Town. The Insights Collective is a group of experts with an array of tenured experience in the destination, tourism, and mountain-town community fields. During these work sessions, the Insights Collective Team presented topics that included economic drivers for Frisco and the possible realities brought by the experience in the past year. Each presentation was followed by a discussion with Town Council about their vision future of Frisco.

Council acknowledged the importance of tourism as an economic driver and vital to local businesses, and the discussion focused on how to find harmony between resident quality of life and visitor experience, while retaining Frisco’s character by encouraging full time residency by expanding housing opportunities and managing tourism.

In this final presentation, Insights Collective used the previous discussions with Council to develop a framework featuring the defined envisioned character of Frisco, as well as a “lens” which Council could use to inform future decisions, policies, and strategies.

Framework summary- decisions would be looked at through the following “lens”:

  • Preserve a neighborhood feeling
  • Value all community members
  • Support connections to the county as a whole
  • Acknowledge that culture is an expression of residents
  • Place importance on the areas where nature meets the town
  • Maintain an inclusive and welcoming community
  • Protect community access to outdoors and nature
  • Have a thriving economy where tourism seen as an economic building block
  • Encourage walkability to enable connections within the community

Housing Strategies

The 2020-2021 Town Council Strategic Plan includes two interrelated topics as part of the Inclusive Community Strategic Priority. These include the high priority goals of increasing full-time residents to 50%, and creating a 5-year housing capital project plan.

During the November 10, 2020 Town Council work session, Council discussion honed in on why it is desirable to increase the number of full-time residents, as it relates to the character and sense of community, supporting a less cyclical economy, and maintaining the small town character that Frisco has been known for.

Currently, there are 3,600 housing units of which 620 are being utilized as short term rentals, leaving 2,980 are currently available for long term residential housing needs. Of the 2,980 currently available, 170 are deed restricted, which is 5.7% of the available housing inventory. The Town of Frisco owns 16 housing units.

Housing Helps Program

Council directed staff to reevaluate and improve the Frisco Housing Helps Program to better support achieving the Town’s housing goals. The concept behind the program is to place deed restrictions on existing residences, as data on the cost of housing suggests that the cost to build new could be more than the cost to purchase deed restrictions. Currently, the only available option in the program is for the Town to purchase an existing unit for resale in Frisco’s very limited housing market or for the Town provide up to 15% of the purchase price (up to $75,000) to a buyer in exchange for a deed restriction. In each case, the deed restriction would be at an AMI of 100% or less. To date, Frisco Housing Helps has been utilized only for the recent purchase by the Town of a condominium in the Mountainside complex.

Some potential adjustments that could increase the use of the program include:

  • allowing purchase of a deed restriction from a current property owner
  • allowing the deed restriction to only require local employment and not have an AMI cap
  • using the program to incentivize a non-resident property owner to long-term rent the property to a local employee. Information from other communities has suggested that an occupancy-only deed restriction may decrease the value of a property by approximately 10%.

Staff will bring amendments to resolution 19-31, which established the Housing Helps Program, to Council on a future agenda.

Town-Owned Mountainside Unit

The Town acquired Mountainside unit C-111 on January 28, 2021, and during yesterday’s meeting, Council decided to rent this unit at 80% area median income (AMI) for the time being, while leaving open the option to sell the unit later with a dead restriction.

Next Steps

In conclusion, Council directed staff to return with revisions to the Housing Helps Program and to facilitate a discussion which will result in a more detailed strategy for housing which could be applied when considering future projects in order to most effectively leverage 5A funds to create housing across the spectrum of needs.

Frisco Adventure Park – National Ski Areas Association Sustainable Slopes

Town Council agreed to join the National Ski Areas Association’s (NSAA) Sustainable Slopes program, which is as a way for ski areas to commit to sustainable practices across their operations. Sustainable Slopes is a framework for ski areas to improve sustainability and environmental performance. To commit the Adventure Park to the Sustainable Slopes program, the Town pledges to the following:

  • Incorporate sustainability into all aspects of our resort;
  • Lead by example, and educate employees and guests about sustainability;
  • Place collaboration over competition when it comes to sustainability; and
  • Advocate for climate protection.

The Town will also address the following in the Adventure Park operations:

  • Climate Change Action and Advocacy- Track target, and reduce carbon emissions; support climate policy that will result in broad-scale carbon emission reductions, promote energy innovation, and support the transition to a clean energy economy.
  • Energy- Implement energy efficiency measures, increase the use of renewable energy and support de-carbonization of the grid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change impacts.
  • Waste – Manage waste in a manner that reduces or eliminates greenhouse gas emissions and protects natural resources.
  • Transportation- Promote transportation initiatives that ease congestion and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including support of electric and low emission vehicles.
  • Education & Outreach- Take a leadership role in sustainability education and outreach.
  • Supply Chain – Source energy and materials with low or no carbon footprint and encourage suppliers to decarbonize.
  • Water – Value water as a natural resource by using it as efficiently and effectively as possible.
  • Design & Construction – Design and construct facilities and trails to minimize impacts and complement the natural landscape.
  • Forest Health & Habitat – Be responsible stewards of fish and wildlife habitats and managing the forests and vegetation that support ecosystems, exceptional public recreation opportunities, and carbon sinks for greenhouse gasses.

The Town of Frisco’s Community Plan outlines the community’s desire to “lead by example on efforts to advance community sustainability and the region’s ability to prepare for, and adapt to, the impacts of climate change.” Committing to NSAA’s Sustainable Slopes would be another affirmation of the Town’s leadership in this area and would connect the Adventure Park to other like-minded ski areas, and opens the Adventure Park up for potential grants offered by NSAA’s Sustainable Slopes program.

Online Sales Tax- Second Reading, Ordinance 21-04, The Town of Frisco’s Participation in the State’s Simplified Tax Remittance System

Town Council passed on second reading Ordinance 21-04, authorizing the Town of Frisco to participate in the Sales & Use Tax System (SUTS) to provide online retailers and marketplace facilitators a portal to report and remit sales taxes to the Town of Frisco.

The State of Colorado has long grappled with the complexities of Colorado’s sales tax landscape.  A sales and use tax simplification task force was originally created in 2017 to find ways to streamline the manner in which sales and use tax is collected and remitted in Colorado.  In 2019, the tax force advocated for and the General Assembly passed SB19-006 which required the Colorado Department of Revenue and Office of Information Technology to collaborate to deliver a Sales and Use Tax System (SUTS) that could be a single web portal where businesses could both look up sales and use tax information by entity and file and remit to all Colorado jurisdictions at once.

While some online retailers remit sales taxes to the Town currently, there are a great many of these retailers who do not file and remit for sales to Town of Frisco residents.  This system would allow remote sellers to become compliant by filing and remitting through the web portal.  Participation in this system would increase sales tax revenues to the Town.

In order for the Town to participate in this system, a code change is required to eliminate the need for a separate business license for sellers without a physical presence within the Town, and Council approved changes to the code as required.  Retailers with a physical presence within the Town would continue to file and remit directly to the Town and continue to be required to obtain a business license.