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Updating how Manitou Springs uses sales tax revenue from pot shops

On Tuesday, KRDO NewsChannel 13 updated a story we first reported a year ago: How is the town spending $3 million in sales tax revenue generated primarily by two recreational marijuana dispensaries?

In our Oct. 2017 story, the town’s Urban Renewal Authority was still deciding on projects to improve the community and encourage business growth.

The URA earlier allocated around $600,000 to the current Westside Avenue Action Plan, a beautification and improvement project scheduled for completion in 2019.

On Tuesday, URA board chairwoman Ann Nichols said $2 million will pay for replacing an old, narrow bridge on Becker’s Lane, with construction scheduled to start and finish in 2020.

Nichols said other projects include improvements at the town’s Gateway entrance, beautifying Fountain Creek through town and placing more art pedestals along Manitou Avenue, the town’s main strip.

Unique businesses or businesses the town doesn’t currently have, such as a grocery or hardware store, were suggested as possible targets for the revenue.

Other suggestions include building a creek walk along Fountain Creek with connections to the downtown area.

But other citizens mentioned more pothole repairs and parking as important needs.

Nichols said decisions about attracting potential businesses and developers won’t be made until after the Westside project is finished.

“We’re seeking to hire an executive director to help that process along,” she said. “We couldn’t have done it without the marijuana sales tax revenue.”

The URA started its own website last year, hoping to attract interest from potential developers and merchants.

Before the opening of the town’s recreational marijuana dispensaries, the URA’s annual budget was only around $100,000, but it is now an estimated $1.3 million.

The URA has $3 million to spend, despite agreeing to stop collecting sales tax revenue for 18 months, from January 2017 until July 2019, to help the town resolve financial issues.

Nichols said the surplus tax revenue won’t last forever.

“It may have already peaked,” she said. “We never counted on this as a long-term funding source because you never know what can happen. Colorado Springs may decide to allow recreational marijuana.”

Bill Murray, a Colorado Springs city councilman, previously estimated that 75 percent of customers at the the two Manitou dispensaries — Maggie’s Farm and Emerald Fields — were from Colorado Springs, and some have hailed the benefit of increased sales tax revenue generated by such dispensaries.

City leaders in Colorado Springs, however, have repeatedly rejected the possibility of allowing recreational marijuana to be sold there because of concerns about increased crime and the devotion of limited resources to enforce marijuana sales.

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