John Scarffe, Black Hawk. The Gilpin County Board of County Commissioners and the Black Hawk City Council met for a joint work session on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at 1 p.m., at 211 Church Street. The two groups covered a broad range of topics ranging from updates on Black Hawk renovation plans and gaming issues to shooting ranges and fire protection.
Black Hawk Mayor David Spellman opened the work session with an update on Gregory Street improvements, which are on schedule. The master plan calls for The Bobtail Mine to open for mine tours when the renovation is complete.
A wall will be constructed that raises it to not quite level, Spellman said “That’s what gives us the footprint.” In front of the church and historic homes gives the City a good footprint for some buildings, and it is City owned property. The last building on Gregory Street will contain a restaurant.
A parking structure will be constructed below Bobtail Street and Crooks Restaurant. The parking garage will have three levels with the natural grade from Gregory Street serving as the entrance for the first two levels, and then access off Bobtail Street for the third level, Spellman said.
The area will have an overhead bridge and could accommodate a large facility. The existing homes will be renovated, and the church becomes a focal point. “It showcases the church pretty nicely,” Spellman said.
For the lot parking lot where the clinic used to sit on west Gregory Street, the City has to deal with the property owner, and then they will have parking there. The parking structure will be an 18-month project, and they anticipate having Gregory Street done this fall, Spellman said.
Regarding plans for the Maryland Mountain trails and open space, for which property is being acquired, it will extend from Highway 119 north and the Black Hawk Fire Station through Chase Gulch, Spellman said. It will contain 600 acres of land and will include Quartz Valley and a reservoir, which could be up to 900 acre feet.
Some think part of the planned open space is an elk calving area, so they have involved the Division of Wildlife, Spellman said. The Hidden Treasure trailhead will have 50 parking spaces, and the City has approval from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).
A bridge will go over to the main line of the old tramway, and the hiking and biking trail loops around back to the tramway. Eventually they will work on the internal trails, Spellman said.
At Castle Rock, they also will have a bridge, and a large trail system will go out to Nevadaville, using the tramway. They plan to limit the Chase Street part of the trail to Gilpin County residents only. Some of the best historical mining areas are just up the street, Spellman said. From Hidden Trail will be a path down to Chase Street.
Commissioner Linda Isenhart said the County is looking for an area for a shooting range, and Spellman said the best idea is the Cottonwood area. Alderman Hal Midcap asked if a range could go above Central City near the Columbine Camping area. Gilpin County Board Chair Gail Watson said they looked up there, and it’s a half an hour from I-70.
Boulder County has to have a shooting range, but, considering its population and revenue, it’s not fair to say Gilpin County also has to have a shooting range. People shoot on their own property, Watson said.
Spellman said he is not opposed to shooting, but people shoot up everything and leave their shells everywhere. Isenhart said she lives in Colorado Sierra and has a lot of problems with that. Neighbors have actually sold their houses and moved because they were so upset.
Alderman Paul Bennett said he hears that constantly, especially down Highway 46 and off to the south side. Isenhart said, “If we can do some kind of planning that would be proactive that would be nice.”
Spellman said a recreation area on Highway 6 would be a good idea, and they need to do a traffic study. They don’t have a traffic counter at highways 6 and 119. They should figure out how much traffic uses Highway 6 so that, annually, when state agencies go before the Gaming Commission, they can prove that not all the traffic is gaming traffic.
“It would need to be a compelling argument. Until we have that information, it’s going to be hard to make a compelling argument. It’s County money too,” Spellman said. Watson said it’s a small percentage.
Spellman brought up free play coupons that casinos send out to invite people to Black Hawk and can be exchanged for tokens or chips. The casinos pay a tax on that. Some states don’t tax free play coupons, and the argument can be made by the Gaming Association that if they don’t tax the coupons they make more money.
Black Hawk has sent one letter recommending that the coupons not be taxed, and they are being asked to send another letter, Spellman said. Isenhart said it seems like County revenue won’t be affected.
Spellman said they are facing increasing competition with gaming opening up around the country, so they want to be sure they’re in the best position possible. “If we could all sign the same letter it would send a pretty strong message. If it has the potential to increase revenue, it’s important.”
Spellman said that 24-hour liquor sales died this year in the Colorado legislature, and he asked the Commissioners if they would be willing to support 24-hour liquor. He said that House Majority Leader KC Becker was concerned about bar hopping.
Black Hawk City Attorney Corey Hoffmann said the legislature was concerned about jurisdiction hopping and worried about drinkers going from Denver to Aurora. Glendale used an alley and next to it is a Common Consumption Area.
Commissioner Ron Engles asked if Entertainment Districts and Common Consumption Areas for liquor have been effective. Spellman replied that they are not user friendly and very cumbersome. They could be challenged at some point.
Even the State Patrol is playing it fast and loose, Spellman said. DUI’s have not increased between the hours of 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. Hoffmann said that the numbers are statistically insignificant and didn’t change at all. The sponsors of bill used the Black Hawk area as a good example.
“Our casinos follow the rules and are a very responsible industry. Our casinos do a very good job of policing the drinking,” Spellman said. Those are two areas that need to be addressed if you want to energize the gaming industry.
Watson said the County is considering a mill levy increase, but the problem with a mill levy increase is Boulder County schools. It’s hard to sell. Spellman said Black Hawk has an 8.9 percent mill levy right now, and the City is not going to revisit that.
“If you decide on a 1-and-half percent mill levy, the school will lose that. They would automatically terminate tax for the school district,” Spellman said. Engles said that it’s not going to happen for the 2017 election. “With the Gallaher Amendment not kicking in as hard as I thought, it’s going to give us some breathing room. When we have a county manager, we might be able to find some internal efficiencies.”
Spellman said that, in a very broad sense, Black Hawk would like a critical mass of hotel rooms with a convention and event facility and restaurants, so all of those components build on that. Isenhart said the County is looking for more opportunities like trails, with gaming as hub, to do some other things to stimulate the area.
Watson said that the county doesn’t have enough retail. “We haven’t done forecasting, and now we have to. Now we have the possibility of a jail expansion. We don’t know what that means yet because we’re waiting for the sheriff to come up with a proposal.” Those convicted of DUI felonies are now coming to the county jails, which increases the jail population.
The County is talking about marijuana grows, Watson said. It’s a conversation. With more states approving legalized marijuana, they’re not going to be flocking to Colorado, and do we want that in the county?
Isenhart said the Commissioners are in support of having the Timberline Fire District covering no man’s land in the county. Residents always assume someone is going to come when they have a fire.
Spellman said Black Hawk is working out an intergovernmental agreement with Timberline, but the City will continue to cover Highway 119. “We want to respond to 119 because we have the personnel, and they are gaming customers.”
Isenhart said: “I really like that idea and know that Black Hawk is there for Timberline and Central City. I don’t want to be held hostage, and I want to have as good of coverage as we can. The reality is we don’t have that many calls in no man’s land, but it will help those homeowners to have insurance.”
Watson said the Commissioners will be interviewing county manager candidates the next day, and they are looking for as much help as they can get. On June 19, they will have a reception for the top two candidates for commissioner.
“We’re trying to say we want the public and staff to stop in and meet the candidates,” Watson said. The Commissioners have been helped by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, and two regional people sat down and went through 37 applications, narrowing it down to eight candidates.
“It’s hard to tell on paper what the person is really like,” Watson said. “It’s not an easy job, especially when we realize how much responsibility they have.”
Alderman Bennett concluded the meeting by saying that the Council and Commissioners should get together again and meet more frequently. He remembers when they used to have more frequent meetings.
(Originally published in the May 18, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)