CB council instructs staff to enforce lighting rules despite business request
Written by Mark Reaman   
Wednesday, 10 July 2013
“But light helps keep downtown vibrant…”

Local businessmen Eric Roemer and Chuck Cliggett came to the Crested Butte Town Council on Monday, July 1 to ask the council to step back from enforcing the town’s new lighting regulations. The most recent rules tone down the amount of lighting businesses can have on their property, both as an architectural enhancement and for things like outdoor seating.


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The council told Roemer and Cliggett they were sympathetic to some of their points, but in the end, they instructed the town staff to enforce the ordinance as it was written. The council did express a desire to meet with members of the local business community to get their opinion more often on issues that affect them. That could happen after the summer tourism season.
“I am asking the council to suspend the lighting ordinance as it applies to the business district of town,” Roemer told the council. “Keep the heart of downtown attractive for the tourists. They like the lights. It adds to the excitement and safety for people visiting here. Much of it enhances the architectural highlights of the business buildings.
“We want the town to support a successful business community,” he continued. “More than 800 people work at businesses on Elk Avenue. A majority of the sales tax comes from restaurants, retail and lodging. Lighting creates an exciting, vibrant atmosphere for downtown Crested Butte.”
Roemer brought out figures indicating what he described as lethargic growth in the town’s business community. He said the town has to compete with Mt. Crested Butte and other mountain resorts to keep people downtown.
“Lights lure people downtown, especially if they drive in and stop at the Four-way,” he said. “Allow the business district to light itself up and remain a festive area for the town.”
Cliggett said the lighting ordinance is a subjective piece of legislation. “What is ‘excessive stray light that adds to visual pollution’?” he asked. “Last year the lighting on Elk Avenue was attractive. The buildings were lit up in an attractive way.”
Councilperson Jim Schmidt said he had no objection to revisiting the issue but declared he was “disappointed that we discussed this at a work session and published it and the people didn’t come when we were considering it. I think our interests are the same. It’s always a matter of degree. It shouldn’t look like Vegas but it also shouldn’t look like 1880 when there was no electricity in town. What’s the middle ground?”
Mayor Aaron Huckstep listed several issues the council had considered that affected local businesses. “We don’t seem to have a real strong discussion presence with the business owners,” he said. “How can we communicate better? That’s the larger issue.”
“It seems a lot of issues emanate from this building as opposed to the council,” said Roemer. “No one reaches out to us before doing an ordinance. The reaching out needs to be during the thought process and not after the writing process.”
“Maybe we need a business committee with the town staff,” suggested Huckstep. “Maybe instead of this issue on the agenda we need a broader work session.”
“People visit here on vacation year-round,” said Roemer. “It’s not just in winter. The lights can be attractive now.”
“And remember that many of your constituents are working hard all day and want to be with their kids at night so they don’t want to come to a meeting like this,” added Cliggett.
The discussion halted without the council making a commitment on the lighting issue. Three hours later at the end of the council meeting, the issue was discussed at the request of town building and zoning director Bob Gillie.
“Either we do it or we don’t but it’s a policy decision of the council. What’s your direction?” Gillie asked.
Councilperson Shaun Matusewicz said he was in favor of continuing with the ordinance passed last winter. “Give it a chance to really see how it works,” he said. “We need to support the staff. It’s B.S. to not do so at this point.”
“I tend to lean toward Eric’s view,” said Councilperson David Owen. “Elk Avenue is our primary business district. It should be better lit. Tourists expect it to be well lit.”
“There is a provision in the ordinance for business to bring in a lighting plan and get approval,” said Gillie. “We have an obligation to make our historic district look attractive to everyone.”
“I don’t buy the argument that a string of lights will make sales better,” said Huckstep. “I heard tonight that it wasn’t so much about the lights but that we as a council need to understand better the sales tax revenue stream comes from downtown and we should be doing better at promoting and supporting downtown. I don’t think lights were the most critical issue.”
The council, with the exception of Owen, supported Gillie continuing to enforce the lighting ordinance as was passed by the council. A future work session between the council and the business owners will try to be arranged.