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Outgoing mayor Marc Snyder proud of keeping Manitou Springs community together in tough times

January 6, 2016 Updated: January 7, 2016 at 12:27 pm
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photo - Marc Snyder looks out over Manitou Springs, the day after his last day as mayor on Wednesday, January 6, 2016. .Photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette
Marc Snyder looks out over Manitou Springs, the day after his last day as mayor on Wednesday, January 6, 2016. .Photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette 

Just hours before his tenure ended as mayor of Manitou Springs, Marc Snyder sat in his City Hall office Tuesday surrounded by boxes, stacks of newspapers and assorted files he was getting ready to haul away.

Snyder was about to bid farewell to the city council at its regular meeting later that evening and watch Nicole Nicoletta be sworn in as his replacement. Snyder seemed relaxed as he reflected on six years as mayor and five more as a councilman.

When asked what he wants people to remember as his Manitou Springs legacy, Snyder didn't hesitate.

"Helping to hold the community together through some really challenging times," he said.

The 56-year-old pointed to the June 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire, a 19-hour evacuation of the city and two years of flash floods that destroyed homes and flooded businesses. He also spoke at length about bringing recreational marijuana sales to Manitou Springs, which he said "could have fractured our community."

And the longtime trail advocate paused, held up a photo of Iron Mountain and proudly shared his thoughts about a 20-year fight to purchase an almost 100-acre plot of land on the mountain. That purchase added to the city's open space, limited development on the slopes surrounding Manitou and helped preserve the "Colorado experience," he said.

"It is so important to Manitou that we preserve our mountain backdrop."

According to Gazette articles that document the quest by the city to buy Iron Mountain, Snyder called it one of "the three most important pieces of open space" that surround Manitou Springs. The others, Red Mountain and Sheep Mountain, were owned by the city when Iron Mountain was acquired in 2011. The battle that began in 1989 and ended when Tom McGee agreed in court to sell the land to Manitou Springs for $1.1 million.

Snyder said Iron Mountain is an icon of city officials' plans to surround the town with open space and ring the city with a network of trails.

That movement continued in Snyder's last month as mayor when Manitou Springs purchased 33.5 acres in December in the foothills overlooking Garden of the Gods Park.

As for the recreational marijuana issue, Snyder said that was one he and the rest of council consciously addressed at a snail's pace.

While Denver, Pueblo and other regions around the state quickly allowed recreational pot sales after it became legal in January 2014, Manitou Springs refused to legalize sales until August 2014.

Snyder said several public meetings and work from a committee of residents and public officials enabled the city to implement strict regulations.

"I was worried," Snyder said. "But now, most realize that it's just another business."

The only two El Paso County recreational marijuana stores operate along the eastern end of Manitou Avenue. Snyder said the stores have brought in about $1.2 million in tax revenue since the first opened in August 2014.

Snyder said the "slow" process was by design and made public input an important priority before final decisions were made. He called that process "the strength of the community."

"We have really engaged, smart people living here," he said. "As long as they feel like you're really listening to them, they are going to feel satisfied."

Snyder pointed to the "three P's - panhandling, parking and potholes" as the biggest challenges during his tenure.

He insisted, however, that those are problems that Manitou Springs has faced for decades. Panhandling "goes back to the 1970s," he said. Parking is a product of the tourism and geographic challenges that leave few areas for expansion. And potholes are a problem roads throughout Colorado.

What's next for Snyder?

The longtime attorney who moved from Maryland to Colorado in October 1994 is mulling a bid to join the race for the Board of El Paso County Commissioners' District 3 seat.

Snyder said at the El Paso County State of the Region luncheon in December that he was thinking about running, but he has not made a public announcement.

There are 13 candidates for three open commissioner seats. All six candidates running in District 3 are Republicans. Snyder said he is a lifelong Democrat and wouldn't mind shaking up the race in a region that has been dominated by conservatives.

Ryan Parsell, a spokesperson for the county's Clerk & Recorder's Office, said a Democrat has not been elected to the county commission since Stan Johnson earned the District 1 seat in 1970.

Snyder said he will spend the next week or so discussing a possible campaign with his wife, Kelly and make a decision before mid-January.

"It's a big commitment," he said.

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