MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. - The success of the two recreational marijuana dispensaries in Manitou Springs is cited as the reason for the largest budget in the 11-year history of the town's Urban Renewal Authority.
Sales tax revenue from the legalized pot shops helped increase the URA's budget from $100,000 to $2.5 million, according to Farley McDonough, co-chair of the URA board of directors.
"We use sales tax revenue to do small community improvement projects," she said. "But we've never had this much money before, so we don't know how we'll spend it yet."
McDonough, who also owns Adam's Mountain Cafe in town, said the URA is allocating $1 million to the current Westside Avenue Action Plan renovation, and started its own website Wednesday hoping to attract interest from potential developers and business owners.
"I don't think we'll hear about potential new projects until the Westside project is finished at the end of next year," she said.
McDonough said the URA wants to help new businesses start and encourage community-minded projects.
"We have the money to help a project or business get started if it needs funding," she said."
McDonough admits the town is limited in how much development it can attract, being surrounded by Colorado Springs, U.S. 24 and the mountains, and says a Walmart or other "big box" store wouldn't work.
"We're not looking for tourism-related projects or businesses," she said. "We already have plenty of that. We want something that we don't have, that's good for the town, so that we don't always have to go elsewhere to get what we want or need. For example, we don't even have a hardware store ot a grocery store."
McDonough said the next major project to be possibly considered by the URA, is a creek walk project along Fountain Creek through town, with connections to downtown.
"A lot of people want that," she said.
But some residents have other ideas.
"Potholes," said Kee McDaniel. "There are a lot of potholes that need to be fixed. But I'm glad to hear the town wants to help get businesses started. I moved here from Austin, Texas to start an acupuncture business here because I wanted to live here. It's been tough getting started."
Dan Prem wants more parking
"We can have new stores and businesses, but where are they going to park?" he said.
The windfall of sales tax revenue in Manitou Springs is something legal marijuana proponents have touted in their effort to convince Colorado Springs leaders to allow recreational sales.