MANITOU SPRINGS – After months of negotiations, debate and public comments, the Cog Railway is coming back to the Pikes Peak Region.
The Manitou Springs City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday night in favor of a new agreement between the city and Anschutz Corp, the railway owner. In exchange for tax breaks estimated at $36 million, the company agrees to go through with its $100 million plan to repair the railway and become operational by Spring 2021.
Councilwoman Becky Elder and Councilman Bob Todd were the dissenting votes. Todd also tried changing the excise tax portion, capping it at $10 million in breaks from the city, and delaying Tuesday’s votes, though both efforts were voted down.
Before approving the new deal, council first had to approve an ordinance repealing the original deal between both parties back in June. That was also passed.
Public comment on the new agreement was mixed Tuesday. A handful of people expressed their disapproval for the deal, saying it gives too much in tax breaks to the Cog, despite the company never disclosing its actual need for financial help.
Opponents said they also feared the 50-year deal was too long.
“It’s hard for us as individuals to be visionary over 50 years,” one woman said.
Proponents, meanwhile, said even with the tax incentives, the Cog’s economic impact is far too important to push out of Manitou Springs.
Touting the railway’s 127 years of existence, one man in favor of the deal said now is not the time to turn on a long-time community partner.
“The economic impact to this town is immeasurable. In fact, I would probably reconsider staying here myself,” one man said.
There were also talks in Tuesday’s meeting about putting the ordinance and agreement to a vote of the people. That motion failed 5-2.
It’s also the subject of a lawsuit in El Paso County District Court, waiting for a final decision. Mayor Ken Jaray pointed out that per the city’s charter, city government is not required to ask for a vote on ordinances that include contracts.