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Telluride’s take on regional services

GregCliftonby Modene Gaulke

[January 11, 2017] Greg Clifton, Telluride Town Manager, addressed the Community Forum at Heidi’s Deli.  Clifton noted that Telluride is an historic landmark city under the National Park Service and still looks very much like it did 100 years ago, with 430 protected structures in the town. The population is stable at 2,400, and has seen little change in a long time. One hundred years ago, the miners straightened out the river through the Town. It has now been restored to its original corridor. This was a controversial subject and required substantial engineering work to avoid mine tailings. The result is improved fisheries and habitat. They completed this project in partnership with Trout Unlimited and other partners.

In terms of intergovernmental relations, Telluride holds three social dinners a year with San Miguel County and the Town of Mountain Village. They do not talk business at those events. They share resources such as GIS, Waste Water Treatment Plant, Workforce Housing, Administration, and Regional Transit. Telluride’s water supply is in good shape for perhaps the next 100 years, with pipelines replaced as needed.

Telluride’s annual budget is $37 million. During the recession, they had a reduction in their labor force of 15%. They have a four-stage recession plan, with goals and objectives, but no strategic plan.  The town began operating under the recession plan by a reduction in force, and is still operating under the recession plan even though they are no longer in a recession. They operate very conservatively. Their capital fund receives resources from a 3% real estate transfer tax. Many places around the United States have such a tax. While it produces a lot of revenue for the Town, it is a very erratic source.

The town’s salient issues are housing and parking, diversification of the economy, arts and culture, science and education, behavioral health, early childhood education, climate action planning (this is a central topic for resort communities).

Telluride voters passed a regional transit project in November. They also approved allowing 9 to 10 affordable housing units in the core of town that would have underground parking, and would be occupied by the arts district, which will have an institution in-house.

Telluridians pay a half-cent sales tax for affordable housing.  Housing demands are significant. Sixty percent of the housing is the second home market. Cost of homes is rapidly increasing. The Town Council has just passed an $8.5 million bond to capitalize the new affordable housing project. The plan is to disperse affordable housing throughout the community, providing apartment units, single-family homes, and commercial units. January 2017, they also approved municipal financing on the southwest corner of town to provide an apartment complex and a boarding house which will house 46 beds for short-term rentals/leases under $400 per month—most of them to be occupied by seasonal workers. The project will also include some tiny houses.