To The Editor:
While the voters will decide whether or not to accept the sale of Lot 4 for the proposed Anschutz-EPMC-Stanley Wellness Center, voters need to keep in mind the source of the economic numbers that have bedazzled residents. The Economic Development Corporation is a “pay to play” group funded by some local business interests, including the Stanley Hotel. We have heard mostly from two advocates from this group, who have been consultants for the Stanley business. An economic report very recently issued from the Regional Economics Institute and paid for by this group, projected potential net revenue to the Town from the proposed project over five years of $3.52 million. If the wellness center is built, the end of this five year period would likely be after the year 2021. Keep in mind that all wellness services will be tax exempt, only food, materials, and hotel lodging will generate tax. According to Table 1 of the original report, 72% ($1.72 million) of this revenue is projected to come from “visitor impacts.” This is the old adage used by the Town to support ventures such as the $7.5 million Multi-Purpose Event Center. The economic report for that project stated that the MPEC would lose money each year in terms of operations, but might bring a bonanza of tax revenue from the additional tourists who would come to events there.
Again, we are being told that the supposed economic crisis in Estes Park can only be addressed by getting more and more tourists to come here and utilize our limited infrastructure. Perhaps, but we need to question whether the many new pro-development groups sprouting up in Town are interested in improving the economic wellness of Estes Park, or their own. Certainly many new jobs have been created in the tourism/development advocacy business here. Residents need to consider this question when voting on the proposed wellness project, involving a mix of private business interests and our hospital that is a public taxing district. Think about this on April 1, as well as next summer, when you are stuck in traffic and wondering why such large crowds come to Estes Park. Last December after the flood, was a very successful month for businesses due to the large number of visitors who came across the bad roads to shop and show their loyalty for our mountain community. This tourism loyalty is actually the “Estes Park Brand” that the tourism advocacy groups are attempting to redefine for us. We are taking a very dangerous path in Town by letting advocacy groups convince us that every large project proposed by developers is the answer to our future well being.