Fee reprieve given to help brew up business in Carbondale
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE – An aspiring entrepreneur will get a break on some $30,000 in what normally is required to be upfront payment of water and sewer fees, in an effort by the town to help stimulate the local economy.
Jeff Dahl is in the process of turning the building at the corner of Main and Sixth streets in Carbondale, which formerly housed the local arts council offices and the Artists’ Collective retail shop, into the new Carbondale Beer Works brew pub.
But, with 10s of thousands of dollars already sunk into construction and building rent to date, and another two or three months to go before the business is ready to open, Dahl said the $30,000 bill from the town was an unexpected surprise.
“I have been running into some significant roadblocks along the way, most of which I have been able to overcome with some perseverance,” Dahl wrote in an Aug. 12 letter to the Carbondale Board of Trustees.
“The latest one, however, may kill the business outright before it can even begin,” he said of the town’s billing for $12,096 in water tap fees, $12,729 in wastewater tap fees, and $5,355 for a water rights dedication fee.
Dahl said he was fully expecting to pay permit fees and use taxes in advance, but wasn’t expecting the much larger water/wastewater fees until he’d at least opened the business.
“I believe that this is an unfair burden on a small business operator opening a new business in town right now,” Dahl wrote in his letter.
He appeared before Town Council Tuesday night to formally request that the fees payment be deferred until the business can start generating some revenue. Dahl said he is also awaiting word on a Small Business Association (SBA) loan to help with start-up costs, which would provide additional funds to pay the fees.
Town trustees, though concerned about setting a precedent for other commercial construction projects, agreed to defer the payments at least until a certificate of occupancy (CO) is issued. At that time, if Dahl is still unable to make the payment, the town will consider spreading the payments over six months.
“My feeling is, I’m willing to do that,” Trustee Ed Cortez said. “We can revisit this a couple of weeks before he’s ready to open and figure out how to move forward.
“But, we’re not going to deny a potential revenue source for the town if it can be helped,” he said.
A provision in the town code does allow payment of water/wastewater tap fees in monthly installments instead of all at once, but only if the town itself creates a financial hardship by requiring a water or sewer line extension to serve the business property, which isn’t the case with Carbondale Beer Works.
But supporters of Dahl who spoke at the Tuesday Town Council meeting suggested that the lingering economic recession should qualify as a “hardship.”
“If the recession isn’t a hardship case, I don’t know what is,” said Darren Broome, who purchased a local bike shop now known as Aloha Mountain Cyclery earlier this year. “It’s a big decision to open a business in a recession … I think we need to look at broadening the definition of hardship.”
Broome also took advantage of the town’s revolving loan fund to help purchase his business; a suggestion also made to Dahl to help with his start-up costs.
The loan fund is administered by the new Roaring Fork Business Resource Center, with loan applications and business plans reviewed by a special committee before being granted.
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Pitkin County administrators are proposing a more than $142 million budget for 2020, which is about $6 million less than this year because of fewer construction projects and capital improvements.