New name, new look and
new schedule for county buses
Starting this week, Clear Creek’s bus system will be overhauling everything.
First, the buses will have a new name: The RoundAbout.
They were previously called The Prospectors with a white-and-green color scheme. Now, they will also have a new mountain-themed color scheme and design.
AnnMarie Smith, the county’s transit director, said the county will start wrapping its three buses this week. Staff will do one bus at a time to maintain service.
Overall, ridership has been up over the past year, especially among seniors and minors; and the county’s fourth bus is expected to arrive in August.
Additionally, Smith said the bus system will be expanding its schedule so it runs slightly later into the evenings and on Sundays. However, that new schedule won’t go into effect until Clear Creek hires and trains two additional drivers, which Smith hopes will be in the coming weeks.
Smith clarified that the county will share its new schedules with the public two weeks before it starts running the new routes, which will be funded by grant dollars.
Clear Creek continues to apply for grants at the state and federal level, she said. The long-term plan is to use grant funds to pay for a three-bay transit facility next to the county annex building in Georgetown, and purchase electric buses and charging equipment.
CCEDC: Locals not seeing
typical mud-season slowdown
While the end of 2020 was very rough on some local businesses, the Clear Creek Economic Development Corp. says many are seeing higher-than-average sales so far this mud season.
Jonathan Cain, a shared staff member of CCEDC and Idaho Springs, said the city’s economic recovery task force has reported that some businesses are seeing sales above their 2019 levels.
Typically, sales and visitation are down between the Spring Break period and Memorial Day weekend. However, Cain told the county commissioners during an April 13 update: “We’re not really seeing a mud season (slowdown). … It suggests that a recovery is taking place and people are coming to Clear Creek County.”
Cain and CCEDC President Lindsey Valdez said this higher-than-average visitation raises questions about public safety as Colorado experiences a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases.
However, Valdez stressed the need to balance health and safety with economic recovery, saying, “We need tourism. … I know it’s a catch-22 for everybody, but we will do what we can to make it safe.”
Valdez said her organization is working with the county public health department to promote safety among businesses and encourage safe travel for visitors.
CCEDC conducted a fourth-quarter 2020 business impact survey, which received about 30 respondents, mostly restaurants and retail in Idaho Springs.
While respondents said their October and November revenues took some hits compared to 2019 numbers, December was much worse. However, Valdez reported, many remain confident they can survive long-term.
Commissioner Randy Wheelock attributed the December downturn to additional COVID-19 restrictions as Colorado experienced a third wave of cases. Normally, December would be an upswing for businesses with ski travel and holiday shopping; however, Georgetown’s annual Christmas Market was canceled and businesses countywide had very restrictive capacity limits.
Commissioners intend to require
STRs be owners’ primary residences
The county commissioners have directed staff and the planning commission to begin drafting language that would require short-term rentals be the owners’ primary residences.
Commissioners and staff members said at an April 13 meeting that, if this goes forward, existing license-holders should be grandfathered in.
However, the long-term intent is to protect the county’s housing stock by ensuring investors aren’t buying up properties simply to make them into short-term rentals, as an example.
As of March 31, there are 135 active short-term rentals unincorporated Clear Creek County. This is about the same number the county had pre-pandemic, with staff saying the number of active STRs went down in 2020.
According to Planning Director Fred Rollenhagen:
• 96 STRs have permits from the county;
• Nine are in the review process for their permit applications;
• 17 have just started the application process; and
• 13 are reportedly still operating without any permit or application.
Overall, almost 4% of the residential properties in unincorporated Clear Creek are STRs.
Other jurisdictions, including Idaho Springs and Denver, require STRs be the owners’ primary residence, Rollenhagen explained, and the commissioners felt it was feasible and could be effective at protecting Clear Creek’s housing market.
“Every time you add a short-term rental, you take a long-term rental off the market,” Commissioner George Marlin said. “ … I want to have housing for people to live in our community.”
Rollenhagen said the planning commission would be meeting this week and the county would start notifying stakeholders, including STR owners, of the public process to create such a requirement.
– Corinne Westeman