Lone Tree Mayor Jackie Millet said she remains “bullish” about the state of the city as municipalities throughout Colorado face another round of public health orders that could further hinder …
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Lone Tree Mayor Jackie Millet said she remains “bullish” about the state of the city as municipalities throughout Colorado face another round of public health orders that could further hinder local economies.
“Right now, we’re sitting in the same position as everybody else in Douglas County,” Millet said, referring to the county’s recent rise in positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Counties throughout Colorado are preparing for orders from the state, as indicated by the COVID-19 data. “Douglas (County) is not quite there yet, but according to the numbers, we are,” Millet said. “We are obviously concerned and trying to do what we can to limit the spread of COVID as we have tried to do since the beginning of this.”
Lone Tree will focus on mending the economic struggles within the city, but, Millet said, public health and safety will always come first.
“Consistently, we will listen to the public health officials,” Millet said.
Millet said Nov. 6 that the city is engaging in numerous endeavors to support local businesses in an attempt to soften the inevitable impact that stricter public health orders will have on Lone Tree’s sales tax revenue, which is the city’s primary source of revenue.
The city is purchasing portable “igloos” to distribute to local restaurants to increase outdoor seating capacity. The city relaxed its ordinance for business signage. City staff has acted as a liaison to help small businesses obtain Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) grants or assistance grants from Douglas County. The city will also conduct a winter marketing campaign, which Millet said Lone Tree has not done before.
“I would encourage everybody to be as entrepreneurial and creative in their personal lives as they are in their professional lives,” Millet said. “We’ve had to pivot in our professional lives to accomplish our goals … I would encourage everybody to do that in their personal lives to slow the spread of the disease and be as creative as you can.”
While juggling efforts amid the pandemic, city staff are also focused on ongoing projects in RidgeGate. The master developer, Coventry Development, announced 1,900 single-family homes will be built on the east side of I-25. The Lone Tree City Council recently approved a site improvement plan for the RidgeGate Station Apartment complex, a six-building complex with 540 market-rate apartments.
“The key to Lone Tree’s success has always been the cohesiveness of council and staff,” Millet said. “We really all row in the same direction, and never more so than now. I think there is a lot of trust among council and there’s a lot of trust between council and staff and we are all operating with the goal of the Lone Tree community as our priority and doing what’s in the best interest of residents and businesses in the city.
“When you have that as your goal and everyone agrees to it … given the limitations of our budget and the size of our staff, we continue to punch above our weight.”
The city’s budget projections for 2020 fell by almost $10 million, according to the most recent budget amendment, causing officials to pause certain projects in lieu of prioritizing others. The city is still keeping an eye on the opening of In-N-Out, a popular burger chain with plans to open by the end of 2020 near County Line Road, and making plans to safely celebrate the holidays. Schweiger Ranch, the ranch east of I-25, is looking at purchasing more lights for its annual Christmas display. The city held a drive-by Halloween event and limited-capacity pumpkin patch this year, and plans to hold more similar events as long as the pandemic persists.
Millet recognized the key to curbing the disease spread lies with residents’ choices. Millet believes, due to enhanced safety measures already in place, restaurants and retail are not so much the issue as are individuals. Things like book clubs, house parties, students returning from college and gathering with friends are what residents should concern themselves with first.
“I don’t think further restrictions on businesses are going to make a difference,” Millet said. “Where the spread is happening is in gatherings …
“The concern is the peak,” Millet said. “If you look at the state health data, if we don’t make some changes, they’re predicting the peak of people sick with the disease is going to surpass the hospital capacity …
“The biggest limiting factor is the staffing of the hospitals,” Millet said, a point seconded by health officials throughout the state.
The Park Meadows mall is not in danger of closing its doors like it did in March, when the statewide shutdown orders were announced, which is one glimmer of hope for the city. The city’s No. 1 economic driver and sales tax generator, Park Meadows has operated under a special exemption called a variance from the state’s public health orders.
“People have the right to make decisions for themselves. What I want to do, and I think the city’s job, is to make as much information available to them to help them make the best possible choice,” Millet said.
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