(Release Date: 1.2.24)

Title: Jed Selby, South Main developer & former pro kayaker, on affordable housing, building the future, his love of live music & what motivates him

Overview: In this episode of the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast, Adam Williams talks with Jed Selby, co-developer of South Main in Buena Vista, Colorado. That includes the Surf Hotel, the bar and restaurant Wesley & Rose, and the concert venues of the Ivy Ballroom and the Lawn, among other things. 

Jed is a former professional kayaker and former U.S. Freestyle Kayak team member. He’s a passionate lover of live music and has contributed a lot to the local area music scene for nearly 20 years.

Adam gets to know about who Jed is behind the public reputation. They talk about motivations and how Jed has felt about criticism of his South Main work. They also talk about community crisis issues, like affordable housing, short-term rentals, water needs and how to build the future. Among other things.


The We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast is a collaboration with the Chaffee County Departments of Public Health and Housing, and is supported by the Colorado Public Health & Environment: Office of Health Disparities.

Along with being distributed on popular podcast listening platforms (e.g. Spotify, Apple), Looking Upstream is broadcast weekly at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, on KHEN 106.9 community radio in Salida, Colo., and can be listened to on-demand via khen.org

Jed Selby / South Main Co.
Website: southmainco.com
Website: ivyballroom.com 
Website: surfhotel.com 
Instagram: instagram.com/surfhotelbv
Facebook: facebook.com/surfhotelbv 

We Are Chaffee
Website: wearechaffee.org
Instagram: instagram.com/wearechaffeepod 
Facebook: facebook.com/wearechaffee
Instagram: instagram.com/wearechaffee

Looking Upstream Host, Producer & Photographer: Adam Williams
Looking Upstream Engineer & Producer: Jon Pray
We Are Chaffee Community Advocacy Coordinator: Lisa Martin
We Are Chaffee Graphic and Web Design: Heather Gorby
Director of Chaffee County Public Health and Environment: Andrea Carlstrom


Note: Transcripts are produced using a transcription service. Although it is largely accurate, minor errors inevitably exist.

[Intro music, guitar instrumental]

Adam Williams (00:00:16): Welcome to We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream, a conversational podcast of humanness, community, and wellbeing rooted in Chaffee County, Colorado. I’m Adam Williams.

Today I’m talking with Jed Selby. Jed, along with his sister, Katie Urban, is co-developer of South Main in Buena Vista, Colorado. That includes the Surf Hotel, the restaurant and bar Wesley & Rose, the concert venues of the Ivy Ballroom and The LAWN among other things. Jed is a former professional kayaker and former US freestyle kayak team member. 

Jed Selby | Photography by Adam Wiliams

Jed Selby | Photography by Adam Wiliams

He’s a passionate lover of live music and has contributed a lot to the local area music scene for nearly 20 years. In this conversation, my intention was to get to know who Jed is behind some of these professional storylines that many people know him for. In my view, Jed is one of the sorts of thinkers and doers in a small community who people often hear stories about and form opinions about because of the scale of what he does and because he is a more public figure than many.

Having grown up in a small town myself, I think an error of mystery and rumor kind of develops around someone like Jed, a person with big ideas that disrupt status quo and the gumption to make them into a reality. We do get a look into who Jed is here as a sensitive, well-studied and expressive human who wants to bring people together. But what I’ve also taken away from this conversation is how incredibly knowledgeable and passionate he is about topics like town planning and development, architecture, affordable housing and short-term rentals, water needs, and local economics.

(00:01:54): Now all that said, what he shares in this conversation probably will spark some thoughts and maybe even debate in the community. You might agree with his insights on how to build a future here or you might not. But given his vision for developing South Main and why he and Katie did it what they did, despite criticism that it would further hurt the economy on Main Street, which was fairly faded those 20 or so years ago, well, it’s been proven that the critics were very wrong and that Jed and Katie’s vision and forward-thinking are worth considering. It’s our shared future here for all of us, and that future depends on solutions to crisis level problems that we are experiencing.

I’ll finish with this. If you’re interested in those problems and potential solutions, then this conversation is more than worth the listen. And if you are interested in learning more about who Jed Selby is beyond the reputation and rumors, then this is worth the listen.

The Looking Upstream podcast is supported by Chaffee County Public Health and the Chaffee Housing Authority. Media Partners are KHEN 106.9 FM Community Radio in Salida, Colorado, and the Chaffee County Times and The Mountain Mail, two newspapers where I publish a monthly column related to the We Are Chaffee community storytelling initiative in this podcast. 

Show notes, including links and a full transcript of the conversation, are available at wearechaffee.org. You can support the podcast by following @wearechaffeepod on Instagram and the We Are Chaffee account on Instagram and Facebook. Now here we go with Jed Selby.

[Transition music, guitar instrumental]

Adam Williams: All right, Jed, it is great to have you sitting here. I’m glad to be able to hang out with you, get to know you a bit. Welcome to Looking Upstream.

Jed Selby (00:03:47): Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Adam Williams (00:03:49): I come from a small town, not too unlike where we are. My perception from that experience growing up through all that is that there are certain people who do and accomplish things in a small town like that who tend to get this idea in the town’s people of who they are from afar. Nobody really gets to know what their intentions or their visions are necessarily. Instead, there’s this idea of Jed Selby maybe. That’s what’s on my mind. I don’t know if that’s something that you feel comfortable with, if you agree with, but I’m wanting to get to know who you are behind that idea if that’s a fair way to take this forward.

Jed Selby (00:04:26): Well, I think that I’ve been in town now since 2003. And right when we got here, we started South Main. So I’ve been behind what has been one of the larger or maybe the largest project in town since that time. And so I think there is certainly a public aspect of that, but in reality, we’re just a company and we are building a neighborhood and it has certainly had an impact on the town, but it also is just a fairly small part of town. We’re over there kind of in the corner and we love our project. 

And certainly I do hear a lot of things about us that are true and I hear a lot of things about us that are not true, and I think that’s just the nature of that. I haven’t obviously met everyone in town, so there are a lot of people that I don’t know and I think that’s part of it.

Adam Williams (00:05:33): Yeah, absolutely. And I want to talk with you about a lot of those things, but before we get to things like South Main, this development and these perceptions, I’m curious to know what it is you’ve heard and things. But one of the first things that I had heard about this guy, Jed Selby, who’s behind South Main, was that you were a pro kayaker. And so I would like to actually get to know about that cool piece of your story that predates the 20 years here before we move into some of those bigger subjects.

Jed Selby (00:06:03): When I first came to this valley, it was to kayak and it was in 1996. I was in college down in Durango and came and paddled Browns Canyon, which was actually the second river I’ve ever paddled outside of the Animas in Durango, the Arkansas. And then later that year I came back and paddled the Numbers a number of times and then later in ’96 came back and paddled Pine Creek. 

So it was kind of I’ve been coming here every year since and would come to FIBArk every year. Actually, the year that we purchased the land where South Main is, I actually won FIBArk in the freestyle kayaking category. So I had a lot of history there, have competed in FIBArk. I think my last year competing was in 2010. And 2008 at FIBArk was the US freestyle kayak team trials to go compete in the World Cup. My brother-in-Law and I both made the team in 2008 at FIBArk.

(00:07:06): So I’ve been kayaking here long time and I still kayak here, paddled this summer quite a bit. My first day kayaking this year was actually on Pine Creek, so was in the Numbers, so I’ve kind of been running those rapids a long time. Clear Creek and Lake Creek and all the different stuff in the area. It’s a world-class place for kayaking.

Adam Williams (00:07:28): I love everywhere we drive up and down the valley and all these places that we get to form these relationships with nature. So for me, that would come in the form of say trails maybe more with running and things like that or it’s cycling. It sounds like a lot of history there, so do you have that sort of emotional sentimental connection? 

Are you that kind of guy that when you go back to Pine Creek these 20 whatever years later and you’re still riding that water, are you thinking about those moments in history where you’re like, “Wow, I really have this special relationship here?”

Jed Selby (00:08:02): Yeah, I mean I’ve spent so much time on the river here, it’s hard to even calculate. Now that I have two kids, we raft all the time. I’ve taken my kids in the two person kayak down Browns Canyon, both when they were about five years old. I’ve taken my wife down at Browns Canyon and at High Water, which was pretty fun in the two person kayak.

(00:08:26): But this area, what drew me here was the outdoors. It was readily obvious that it’s one of the most beautiful places in the state. The weather’s fantastic, it has incredible access to the front range and to other mountains. And between the rock climbing and the hiking and all of it, the outdoor activities are what brought me here. And so when we started South Main in 2003, we started the design. 

We got our first approval in 2005 and we started infrastructure and building roads and the river park and all of that in 2005 and then started building houses in 2007. And at the time, there was a very, very short summer season. So pretty much mid-June to mid-August was the high season and then it fell off drastically from that point. So it was a very challenging place to start something because the economy was just so… There were not a lot of great jobs. At the time, the median area income was about $15,000.

Adam Williams (00:09:36): Wow.

Jed Selby (00:09:37): And part of it was there was just a two-month high season. And obviously there’s not a lot of industry here. So it really was, I think, largely a retirement town and there’s certainly a ranching component. The prison is obviously one of the larger employers, but it was a hard place to make ends meet. And so there was not as many young families as you see today.

(00:10:01): The big question that we had to answer was how are we going to essentially make an economy, make it livable when it’s not readily available? Most places where cities happen, there’s companies, there’s jobs, there’s various types of opportunity. And in this market, it was difficult because there’s no college, there’s no ski area there. There’s not some large year round job base that was here that we would just be providing houses for existing people.

(00:10:35): Also, at the time, Main Street was nearly 3/4 boarded up. There was I think two restaurants. Quincy’s was there and Punky’s. And then most of the shops were closed at the time. CKS had not yet moved to town. They were still down in Nathrop. There was a sense, and I think one of the early kind of criticisms that we got for South Main was, “You’re adding all of this additional commercial, but Main Street’s already empty. Why are you guys going to compete against Main Street? It’s going to only hurt it worse.”

(00:11:12): Our feeling was always that Main Street needed an anchor, it needed a reason to go down to the end. And so the idea of taking the largest natural asset in our town, which was the river and the river park and having Main Street be the main path to get down there would only activate Main Street. And as we put more rooftops within walking distance of Main Street and more businesses down there, Main Street would become the pathway to there. So it was always our feeling that in the long run Main Street would become more vital based on South Main as an anchor. I think that is certainly coming true now.

(00:11:53): When we first started South Main, it felt very out of place. You go down Main Street and then it would turn to kind of nothing, and then you would have this developed area that sort of stood out like a sore thumb. It was always our intention to sort of figure out how we could integrate them. One of the challenges of urban planning and of thinking of a development project that’s sort of a long-term vision is there’s this always very awkward early phase. And it doesn’t matter where you look. If you’re looking in even old pictures of Brooklyn and New York, there’s farm fields with a couple townhouses sticking out of the farm field and it’s this sort of very awkward thing. But now obviously it’s Brooklyn, it’s built out, but New York City was all farms for a long time.

(00:12:42): So what we did in South Main was we took the original 1879 grid and we said, “Okay, we’re going to extend that grid. We’re going to extend the streets that dead ended at our property.” So Carbonate Street, Pine Street and Main Street. There’s West Main, East Main, and then South Main is the extension East Main. So we integrated the grid and then we actually went around and we were able to purchase a lot of the properties that connected between the historic grid from 1879 and South Main.

(00:13:16): And then we were able to normalize the lot shapes because it sort of cut off at a weird angle and there’s all these triangular lots that don’t actually create buildable sites. So we’ve squared them off, we’ve connected the streets, which are just now starting to get connected with buildings. And then we knew that connecting street trees was going to be kind of a way to aesthetically bring it together and make it look like it’s not just this drastic all dirt road, no town, no buildings, no street, and then all of a sudden it’s vertical curbing gutter, streets, sidewalks, street trees, grass and all of that.

(00:13:56): About I think 10 years ago or so, we actually paved the end of Main Street, got the sidewalks to connect, got the trees to connect, and that made a huge difference. And now there’s those buildings, those houses that have gone in on the south side of the Adobe Village on Pine Street. We put the water line in there and then made those lots buildable. Now that’s starting to connect. And then we’re about to start phase 3 in South Main and we’ll actually pave the street and bring it to connect to Pine Street. So Pine Street and Carbonate Street and South Main Street will all start coming together in phase 3, which is super exciting. Our plan was always to sort of integrate to the historic grid, and that is finally starting to happen now.

Adam Williams (00:14:45): Is it true that it was built on the town dump, what used to be the town dump?

Jed Selby (00:14:50): So the town dump was officially at the… The dog park and the pump track and all of that was all where they had put the trash and that was sort of the sanctioned dump. The people that didn’t want to pay, I would drive down to this private property and dumped their trash just south of there. When we first bought the property, it had an unbelievable amount of trash. 

People had been dumping there for decades or longer, who knows? The first thing we did was brought in tractors and tractor trailers and we loaded up hundreds of tractor trailer loads, if not a thousand, full of trash, took it to the actual dump and cleaned it up. So there was a huge, huge cleanup that took several months when we first bought the property.

Adam Williams (00:15:39): That stuns me that that is what was sitting between this beautiful river and Midland Hill and Main Street or the town. I don’t know if this is just because I get to come from the vantage point of knowing that things like environmentalism matter, that recreational tourism as an economic force in a town was possible. And that seems like it was a longstanding way of potentially harming the river, harming the environment, but also cutting off from what could be a lifeblood source of economy for the area.

Jed Selby (00:16:18): Well, I agree, but I think if you look at history, 1879 was not a time where people were whitewater rafting and hiking out on the trail necessarily. So outdoor recreation when the town was conceived was not even on their radar. That’s something that obviously came much, much later. So the fact that the town has this, I think it’s around 80 acre river park that includes the Frisbee golf course and the ball fields and all of that, is this tremendous asset. And that was already all there.

(00:16:56): What we did with South Main was, and this was sort of one of the very first things we did, was subdivide off our river corridor and we donated that to the town. My sister wrote a grant for GOCO that was awarded. She actually did two of them over the first five years of the project. We designed with Mike Harvey who built the Whitewater Park in Salida and built the BV Whitewater Park and extended it down. 

I think that now when you look at a town like Salida, you’re like, “This has an unbelievable potential,” right? But not a lot of towns really were designed quite so with the river in mind, partly because they were designed so long ago. But the towns that have really utilized their river and integrated it into the downtown, in my opinion, are some of the nicest towns in the state.

(00:17:53): And this is why we were so enamored by the property was as a whitewater kayaker, I was looking to do a neighborhood. It had to be on the river, so I wanted to build a whitewater park. The river had to be the right size. The really big rivers are very hard to build a whitewater park. If you were to build one on the Snake or something or the Columbia, it’s not really possible. So you need a river that’s small enough that you can actually get in there and work. And so this really was just the perfect piece of property, walking distance from downtown, the right size, it had the right gradient. And so it was kind of a very fortuitous thing.

Adam Williams (00:18:30): But you’re able to see that through a trash dump, which to me is amazing because that’s having vision, that’s being able to look at something that was truly just… I mean, it was trash. In a literal sense, there was a decades or many years long pileup of all the garbage and you looked through the garbage and said, “This has potential.”

Jed Selby (00:18:51): Well, my friends all told me I was nuts. Let’s be honest. They’re like, “You’re going to live in Buena Vista.” And we were coming from vibrant college town of Durango, and they’re like, “We’re not coming to hang out there.”

Adam Williams (00:19:07): Do they come to hang out here now?

Jed Selby (00:19:08): Heck yeah, they do. So it was a funny thing. So at first it was really, I was so enamored with this idea of the Whitewater Park and then there was sort of a process of like, “Okay, what are we going to build? What’s it going to look like?” And then there was this question of, “How are we going to make it work? How are we going to build our economy?”

(00:19:30): So we started with this very naive simple approach of we want to build a whitewater park. My first business plan had us building 60 houses and I wanted a pizza place and a bar on the river and that was it. My sister sort of forced us to, she’s like, “Let’s do smart growth.” And I’m like, “Well, I don’t know what the heck that is. I just want to build some houses and go kayaking and I’m not… What is smart growth?” And she’s like, “I don’t know, but I want to do it.” It’s pretty funny.

(00:20:03): So we ended up going to Boulder where she went to college for a little while at CU and then she actually transferred to Durango and we went to the library and started researching. This was obviously before the internet had much on it, and we certainly didn’t use it very often in 2002 and ’03 when we were starting our research. And so we found this book Suburban Nation. And then later that day we were at a party in Boulder and we were talking to these people and they told us to go check out this project in Longmont. And so we went up there.

(00:20:35): And after sort of devouring the front range, looking at all of these other small towns, the conclusion we came to that was fairly obvious is we’re like, “We really don’t like very many new developments. We like all of the old ones. I love downtown Durango. I love downtown Tellurides, a beautiful little town. Crested Butte.” We really liked the authentic mountain towns that were built in the 1800s and early 1900s and we loved them. We’re like, “This is what we like. It’s walkable. The architecture is timeless. It’s convenient. It’s beautiful. Why don’t they do it that way anymore?”

(00:21:20): And so we actually realize that that’s smart growth is, is walkability. And with regards to sustainability, the old saying is the best way to recycle a 2 by 4 is to leave it in place. And so we quickly saw that modernist architecture is, it’s popular and it’s trendy and all of this, but we didn’t really see a lot of evidence that it lasts very long, where like, they thought in the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s that they were cutting edge and doing all this cool stuff. But in reality, that stuff’s all outdated and people are tearing it down and wanting to build new stuff. And the ’80s and ’90s are kind of an architectural low period. There’s not a lot that’s really loved there.

(00:22:01): And then we’re noticing more, we’re like, “You can’t find a building before 1930 that’s ugly” in the whole world. We’re like, “So what did they do about that that actually allowed that to happen?” And it turns out there used to be a lot of rules and they followed them somehow without zoning codes, without building codes. There was no building department, there was no zoning code. There was just an idea of how you build. And I think at the time there wasn’t iPhones and there wasn’t Netflix and there wasn’t all of these other distractions. There wasn’t nice cars. There were buildings. It was the thing that people kind of put their energy into. It was the thing that actually how you experience life, was through the built environment.

Adam Williams (00:22:47): And those buildings last obviously.

Jed Selby (00:22:49): And those buildings last.

Adam Williams (00:22:50): We’re pointing them out as examples. And we can go to Europe and see hundreds year old buildings.

Jed Selby (00:22:55): Yeah. You can go Buena Vista and walk downtown or Salida and see some of the most charming, timeless buildings that have unbelievable craftsmanship.They put an unbelievable amount of time and energy into the cornices and into the details. 150 years later, we still love them. So traditional architecture became a huge passion. 

We met a guy named Steve Mouzon who’s a pretty famous architect, and he basically has decoded, “These are the principles that were never broken for literally 6,000 years.” And you can go to France, you can go to South America, you can go to Japan, you can go anywhere. The proportions of windows, putting heavier materials below ladder materials, the way that there’s certain elements that literally were never broken.

(00:23:50): Interestingly, the building profession used to be there wasn’t an architecture profession. You were a builder and you were a designer and a builder and you would apprentice with the builders that were the masters and then you would come up and you would learn what they would teach you. And then in every climate, in every area, there’s distinct construction patterns based on what makes sense there. 

So if you were to look in Leadville, obviously there’s tons of snow. The roof pitches are much steeper. As you go down lower elevations where there’s not as much snow, you might see flatter pitched roofs, you might see different materials. So there’s sort of a lot of logic that goes into it. And so what we have been sort of trying to do over the past 20 years is figure out what makes sense here.

(00:24:41): And then we also noticed that towns that have a strong architectural identity were always the best towns. I’ll take a sidestep here because I think this is sort of gets back to the question, how are we going to build an economy in a town that does not have industry and there’s no jobs that are sitting here waiting for people. What we sort of figured out was that you can actually build something that is of world-class beauty and become a destination on that alone. 

For example, if you were to go to Siena in Italy and you’re kind of out in the middle of farmland, you’re not in the Alps, you’re not on the beach, it’s just architecture. And in Europe, there’s all of these villages around Germany or wherever where you see… The Switzerland. Actually, the mountains are pretty spectacular in Switzerland. So you might go there just for that. But then you add the architecture, and the architecture is a destination.

(00:25:53): The United States really doesn’t have as much of the country that was built pre 1930, which is the beginning of the great architectural decline. Towns built before 1930, New Orleans. New Orleans is a great example of it’s the closest thing to Europe and the United States, and you go down to the French Quarter. Places that were built in the 1700s generally are more charming than places built in the 1800s. And places built in the 1800s are more charming than places built in the 1900s.

So there’s sort of this kind of human scale that started. My favorite era of Europe are like 1000 to 1300. You go to these little walkable villages. And what you see is as humans kind of evolved, the 1500s was a bigger scale and the 1700s was a bigger scale, the 1800s was a bigger scale and they become sort of less of a human scale. And so for us, what we were taken by was the scale of a Telluride, the original scale, not obviously the new large buildings, but the old buildings.

(00:27:00): And so this idea of creating a destination with architecture was sort of a big aha, like, “Okay, so we have outdoor recreation, but just that alone is not enough.” You combine it with architecture and then… We don’t need to be good for BV or between Chaffee County. If people are actually going to not go to some other town and they’re actually going to come here, it needs to be good for the world. And so we basically put our standard as being world-class.

(00:27:34): Now at the time in 2003, that was not exactly the buildings that were being done. And the builders, they were like… I was only 25 years old so they’re like, “Son, I’ve been building longer than you’ve been alive. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” So we were like, “Well, I know that it works because looking at these other towns that it works. And so we’re going to do it ourselves.”

(00:28:01): So we started a construction company and we were a design build company. We had champagne taste and a beer budget. And so we very much had to take matters into our own hands to reduce costs. So we were like, “Man, concrete bids are expensive. All right, let’s do that ourselves. 

Trim bids are expensive, let’s do that ourselves.” So we sort of focused on doing the finish work which eventually evolved into doing most of the projects. We never were a plumbing company or electrician or anything like that, but we took a lot of the finished trades into our company and self-performed a lot of that work.

Adam Williams (00:28:40): It seems really extraordinary. I mean, I’m glad that you mentioned your age there because you’re putting some context on that. I mean at 25 years old, I don’t know that just any 25-year-old is going to have the vision of all of this, is going to travel to these places and do this learning, which I know you’ve had 20 years now to do the learning, but clearly you have some knowledge built up, some insights about this, some opinions, some aesthetic has been developed as well. How, at 25 years old, are you willing to take that leap and have I guess the resources in whatever sense that means to be able to say, “We’re going to take this on”?

Jed Selby (00:29:20): I don’t know. I’ve always just learned from empirical research. So I go look around and I may copy things that work kind of guy. I think a lot of people want to think it was their idea. Originality is obviously very revered. I would rather know something works and if I can find a place that did it well. So it was a multi-prong approach. 

Like for example, I was like, “Who’s going to be able to afford these houses that we want to build that are so awesome in this town? You’re not going to go get a job here today and do it.” What we found was the town of Seaside, Florida. It’s an amazing example of what’s possible in a very similar environment. 

So back in the 1980s, the developer Robert Davis created Seaside, which is actually the first new urbanist project. So this idea of compact, walkable, mixed use, human scale development, traditional architecture, they did it. Now it’s on the coast of Florida, so it’s a totally different architecture, totally different aesthetic.

Adam Williams (00:30:38): Hold on a second. I want to interject here that I’ve been there a number of times so I know exactly… I can picture the place you’re talking about. But if people have seen the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show, then they know it too because that was where that movie was shot.

Jed Selby (00:30:52): Well, yeah. And The Truman Show sort of almost… I don’t want to say it ruins Seaside, but it’s so funny. People will look at Seaside and be like, “|Oh, that’s just like a cheesy cartoon place or whatever.” But I think let’s look a little bit deeper. And this is where I think a lot of people write something off because they don’t like one aspect or two aspects of it. If you look at Seaside, Florida, they took an area that had no economy. 

Back in the ’80s, the panhandle of Florida was called the Redneck Riviera, and it was very inexpensive and nobody wanted to go there, but it had the nicest sand I’ve ever seen on a beach. It has this sugary sand that is literally the nicest sand I’ve ever encountered. There’s no waves, there’s not a lot of surfing, but it’s just this beautiful beach. It’s totally flat and it’s kind of not otherwise in a near an economic hub like Miami or something. So it doesn’t have the gravity of being near Fort Lauderdale or the gravity of a city, but it has great sand.

(00:31:59): So Robert Davis is a very bright guy and he actually was one of my early mentors. He was kind enough to essentially share his business plan with me. What he did was before Airbnb, before iPhones and before everything, and obviously way before us, he started in the ’80s, they built that into essentially a horizontal hotel. They operated it with short-term rentals, and that was my big aha. I’m like, “Okay, this is perfect. People can come, young people.” 

We didn’t want to be a neighborhood that only had homeowners that could afford a second home that sat vacant most of the time. And if you go to a place like Bachelor Gulch and these places that have expensive homes and you have second homeowners and they have enough money to just let it sit there when they’re not using it, that’s a very different type of town. It’s not a vibrant town. It’s kind of creepy. You have a bunch of dark houses all the time. That doesn’t help your businesses, that doesn’t help your restaurants, that doesn’t give you vitality.

(00:33:05): And at 25, for sure I wanted vitality. I still like vitality. I love people, I love to bring people together and all of that. So we built into our plan short-term rentals. And sure enough, if you look around South Main, we have a lot of young owners. There’s multiple ways to address affordable housing, and one way is entrepreneurship. 

And so people that would put a basement that’s rentable as a second unit and then they operate that as a short-term rental, boom, that covers most of their mortgage. And now all of a sudden, sure it’s extra work, it’s extra risk, but now they’ve got a revenue source that allows them to be here.

(00:33:49): And so all of the people that were under the age of 40 that were able to buy houses in South Main all have one if not two separate rental units. And so that was kind of the way that that happened, including for myself. I have two rental units on my property and I could have never gotten the loan for my house had it not been for that additional income back in 2008 when I built it.

(00:34:13): So there’s sort of this entrepreneurial thing and it works really well. And then the local banks now understand that. A Wells Fargo or a large bank’s not going to necessarily understand BV and understand South Main and all this, but High Country Bank and Collegiate Peaks Bank, they’re willing to look at that. And so that’s been an incredible amenity to making things happen. And then what happens with short-term rentals is they change over time. So somebody, there’s many houses that were built by a second homeowner that needs that additional income in order to build the house. 

They can’t just let it sit empty, they can’t afford that. And then one day they sell it, someone else moves in and it’s people that live there. I think short-term rentals have a bad wrap right now because they’ve taken away long-term rental housing. But I think the reality is most of the houses in South Main just wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for short-term rentals. So it’s not like they would be there and they would be rented long-term. If not, they just would’ve never happened in the first place.

Adam Williams (00:35:18): My guess about those houses just from walking through their countless times in the few years I’ve been here and seeing them is that they are out of reach for most people to afford if they were just to come buy a house outright anyway.

Jed Selby (00:35:30): That is true. And I think that the multiple units is the very clever way to get around that because you can add a lock off in the basement or in your backyard or over your garage and the revenue on that far outweighs the additional cost to your mortgage. So I would say actually a lot of people in South Main, and what’s interesting is because architecturally we more look at the scale of the building and the traditional architecture and all of this, most people actually couldn’t even walk around and say, “That’s a duplex” or “That’s a triplex” or “That’s a single family.” It’s all very much intermixed and our zoning is flexible, so it allows for some creativity there.

Adam Williams (00:36:12): You are certainly better versed in all of this subject matter than I am. I’m interested and curious about the idea of affordable housing in short-term rentals. There are clearly some different perspectives on this. And we learned when we moved here and the house next door to us was bought, it’s a smaller at the time. 

For a lot of people, it’s going to be relatively more affordable and the homeowners live on the front range and they’re wonderful neighbors. We look forward to when they actually retire in the coming years and they live next to us, but in the meantime, what we have is a revolving door of neighbors. So we don’t have a sense of building community on the street in that sense either because they’re not the only short-term rental.

(00:36:52): So we’ve had that perspective now based on experience of the last few years. I think your take is interesting because you’re saying, “Oh, but this allows affordability in some senses.” And then it does take off the market what might be long-term rental. I guess what I’m getting at, because I don’t understand this to the extent you do, is how does all this fit in the balance and what maybe is your overall perspective on how this works and what other people look at short-term rentals in a negative sense?

Jed Selby (00:37:19): I know. Well, it’s funny, I think that a lot of the discussion that I hear is oversimplified. And I think there’s more nuance to it than I think I hear frequently discussed. I’ll give you a couple examples. I hear often short-term rentals do not create community. But in reality that one point is interesting because behind my house and catty-corner to my house are two short-term rental houses. They happen to be owned by two of my best friends who are both in their 40s. 

They would never be able to afford those houses if they were not short-term rentals when they’re not there. Because they have the house, they come sometimes two, three weekends out of the month, sometimes one. I see them 20 times more now because one lives in Crested Butte and one lives in Golden. Before, it’s hard for them to come to BV and rent a place for their whole family. Now that they have the short-term rental, some of my best friends are here all the time and I get to see them so much more than I used to before they had that.

(00:38:31): Our kids are all very close, so my kids actually get to see their friends a lot more. I maybe see them however many weekends a year, but it’s a lot more than I used to. My actual close-knit community gets to see each other much more because of that. With the revolving door, again, I just like people. 

A lot of interesting people come through. My kids get to… Every once in a while, some kids are next door, I’m like, “Hey, go say hey to those kids.” We meet a lot of really interesting people because I live around a lot of short-term rentals. Sometimes there’s a party, sometimes there’s not. Personally, it doesn’t bother me.

(00:39:14): When I go to New York or I go to any other town, there’s people there and there’s things happening and it’s not always quiet. I think this idea that it always has to be perfectly quiet for me is it’s a little bit… Well, it’s certainly an American idea. I mean, I live in Mexico part of the year down in Baja. And the Mexicans, every Saturday and every Sunday have raging parties and they’re playing music as loud as they possibly can until literally four o’clock in the morning every single weekend. 

And their friends are there and their families are there, and it’s just part of the culture. Monday night through Thursday night is always quiet and then the weekends they always party. In Mexico you don’t have noise ordinances. It’s just not the same thing. So it’s a cultural thing. You go to New Orleans, it’s loud all the time. So I like that a little bit more activity. I like having a little bit more going on. And I also live in a new house and I can close the windows and it’s pretty quiet.

Adam Williams (00:40:15): I think a big question here for people though, and this might affect you as an employer and with things like the Surf Hotel and the restaurant there and some things where you need staff who can’t afford to live here, how do we address that? And the idea I think that short-term rentals, if it takes a long-term opportunity off the market. So how do you see that the answers are balanced to that?

Jed Selby (00:40:39): Okay, so let me point out one more thing and then I’ll answer that directly.

Adam Williams (00:40:42): Okay.

Jed Selby (00:40:43): I think it’s important to recognize that a person who is building a house as a second home and that will do short-term rentals in order to afford that is a different investor with a different purpose. That person is not saying, “I’m going to build a house and I’m either going to rent it short-term or long-term.” A person who builds long-term rental housing is usually in that business. 

They’re actually a professional and it’s a different asset class. It would be like comparing commercial retail and office. They’re two different asset classes. Restaurant is a different asset class than an office building. And a short-term rental is a different asset class with a different investor and a different reason and a different purpose. So by eliminating the short-term rental, you’re not actually gaining the long-term rental. So that’s one point I think is important.

(00:41:44): A second point that’s important is every single housing unit helps. Let me explain. This is where it gets a little bit more complex. Let’s say you build a short-term rental unit. You’re like, “Well, that doesn’t help the long-term housing.” But there’s only so much demand for short-term rentals. 

And if you create one and it’s a really popular one, you’re going to be removing probably some business from a different one. Someone is going to be like, “You know what? My rent’s not what it used to be because there’s a lot of these things. I’m going to rent long-term.” And so by having a sufficient amount of lodging units, you actually will inherently put certain units back into the long-term pool. 

By having a shortage of short-term rentals, you’re going to get as many… Anyone that gets a permit is going to do it because they’re going to be lucrative. So I think they’re artificially creating a shortage that is taking some of the long-term rental units and putting them into short-term.

(00:42:51): I also think, and this is a big one for me, to not like short-term housing and to not like tourism, because I hear a lot of negative discussion about tourism as a whole, I mean, I don’t want to be rude here, but Buena Vista does not have industry. Tourism is one of the only industries in our town that is thriving. To not like it and to want to shortcut tourism is sort of going to Detroit and being like, “I don’t like automakers. That’s not the right industry. We should stop auto making here.” It’s just what’s here. It’s like it’s the thing that exists.

(00:43:41): And so the way I look at it is I’m like, Buena Vista and Chaffee County are more expensive to live in than the front range, yet we have a lower median income. In my opinion, it is only fair to do everything we can to provide as much opportunity as we can to our locals. And I think that having good jobs, I mean one way that you can address affordable housing is you can eliminate jobs. 

And if you eliminate the economy, then there will be less people living here. And that is a very real way to have enough housing, is to actually be like, “Sorry, there’s no…” There’s housekeepers that are making $50 an hour, $40 an hour that clean these houses. So I look at it and I’m like, “I see the benefit. I see how many people that they’re putting into restaurants. I see how many people that are able to come here and spend money in the stores, and I see that it is the lifeblood of our economy.” So I think cutting that short is doing a disservice to our community.

(00:44:53): Now with that said, we have a serious problem. And the problem is houses cost a lot. And if you just do the math, even if you buy a normal house and you pay for a normal mortgage, you’re not getting a two bedroom housing unit for 1,500 bucks a month. The mortgage is going to be 3,000 or whatever. So I think that if you were to look at other mountain towns and you were to look at our town, I think that you could say, “Well, the train has sort of already left the station.” 

The gap is so big that just because you outlaw or eliminate additional short-term rentals, those houses are already too expensive to go towards the workers in town, and I think the workers need housing. It’s a difficult place to be an employer because there’s insufficient supply of high quality, reasonably priced housing.

(00:45:50): And I think that if you look at other mountain towns or areas where building costs are higher, it’ll always cost more to build in a small town like this. The labor pools are short. When we get bids and we have to go to the Front Range because there’s no local contractors that can do the job, they’re actually adding hotel rooms onto their invoices. 

So I mean, we’re paying way more for construction here than you would if you were in a bigger market. Material costs are higher because they have to bring them all the way up here in smaller quantities. So there’s sort of macroeconomic factors that are no one’s fault. It’s just reality, and those are very real.

(00:46:35): And so building costs are higher, land costs are higher. I mean, even our energy costs, our utilities are higher, our food costs are higher. We have resort pricing in our city market. I mean, so it’s expensive to live here and we have below median income. And I think that’s the thing where I’m like, “I think there’s another idea, and that idea is let’s build a prosperous economy. Let’s take down some of these barriers that I believe are more fear-based.” 

And we’re trying to say no to things in order to get what we want, but it’s not really working if you look. Because the Chaffee Housing Authority did a study and it showed that there were somewhere around a thousand or maybe 1,300 units that the county needed that were going to be affordably priced, and I’ll just go ahead and add, well located and of a good quality and a good design. I mean, I think we should build the town that we want.

(00:47:32): How do we actually solve that problem? If you do simple math and you look at current construction costs, I mean you’re talking about a half a billion dollars of construction. There’s no policy that is inclusionary zoning where you force a developer to do affordable housing as part of their project, which again drives up the cost to other people. No policy like that is going to solve the half a billion dollar problem. It’s going to require, in my opinion, a community scale approach and a plan and a long-term vision.

(00:48:09): And so here’s how I think that could work. I think if there was something like a half a percent sales tax or something like that where everybody… It’s like this is a community scale problem. This is impacting all of us. Everybody’s going to pitch in a little bit. The tourists will actually pitch in the most because they come here and they shop and they eat out and they spend the most money by far. So you’d have a huge income source.

(00:48:34): And then I think that you get creative on where you get the land. Maybe developers do give some land, maybe the county and the town and the school district and whoever puts some land in and you say, “Okay, we’re going to actually build these things.” 

Because as a developer, if you were to say, “Okay, we’re trying to get a rental apartment for $1,500 rent so that a school teacher can have a reasonable place to live for a reasonable price” or something like that, then if I just said, “Okay, here’s what it costs and here’s what the interest rates are and here’s what the mortgage is and here’s what the rents are,” it doesn’t actually pencil out, and so the bank’s not going to lend on that. It just doesn’t get built. And so that’s I think what we’re seeing.

(00:49:22): I think if you had a funding source that actually built units, and maybe the first year is five, maybe the first year is 20, and you did that every single year and every year there’s principle and interest payments towards the mortgage and the principal amount, which is the amount owed on the loan is going down, then what would happen is in 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, which I can only assume the problem’s going to get worse if we were to look at other towns that are further down the road than we are in the mountains, then you would actually have an abundance of affordably priced units that are deed restricted, that are of good quality in a good location if the plan is good.

(00:50:08): And it’s not a problem we’re going to solve today, but if we have a good plan and we all pitch in and everybody agrees and we do it over a long period of time, 20, 30, 40 years from now we’re going to be like, “Holy cow, we have housing. We have a lot of it and we’ve paid off the mortgage. We can rent it for whatever price we want that it meets the needs of the local community.”

(00:50:32): I think if we did that, there’s actually a few European countries that have done this and they did it long enough ago that it’s actually starting to pay off and it’s actually working, then I think we would be in a completely different place. But the question I have is, who’s actually building the $500 million houses or $500 million worth of housing and who’s paying for it? I think if we all put our heads together and we all work together, I think we could find a solution.

Adam Williams (00:51:03): So you again have obviously accrued a lot of knowledge and perspective in all of this. If we go back to the idea that where you are building South Main is on what used to be the town dump, well, of course back in 1879, they weren’t looking at the river for kayaking reasons. But what I’m saying is it was 20 years ago, only 20 years ago, for somebody to come in and have a vision and say, “This can be something else. There’s potential here for tourism economy to create opportunities for this town.”

(00:51:35): Now, there are people, if I put it old guard, new guard kind of status quo, who don’t want this change, who don’t want the town growth, who don’t care about necessarily the tourism and recreational economy because that brought people like me that brought a lot more people to town, okay, fine, that brings money, but it also created more of a problem with housing and things like that. 

I suspect those are some of the people, if we circle all the way back to the beginning of this conversation where you said, “Oh, I hear some things said about me. Some are true, some maybe not so much.” I’m guessing some of them are things that are from a more negative light about you and your vision and these ideas that you’re talking about right here.

Jed Selby (00:52:18): Well, I think change is scary and is a very real thing for people. And I think that there’s an old saying that when there is no vision, the people will perish. I think people have a lot of very good reasons to not trust development. Let’s be honest, drive around Denver and look at C-470 and look at the truck housing and look at the traffic and the gigantic roads and the strip malls, and you’re like, “I don’t actually want that,” and I don’t think anybody wants that.

(00:52:55): I’ve read a lot of the different polls they’ll do. Interestingly, what people value as much as anything from the polls I’ve read are they want to maintain a small town feel. They want to maintain the character of BV. I do too, 100%. We have a couple things working in our favor that are really pure luck. One is that our Main Street is not a highway. If you go look around any town that has a highway, a US or a Colorado State Highway as their Main Street, they’re not very quaint and they’re not very comfortable. 

You can look at Gunnison, you can look at Montrose, Delta, all of those places that have… Their downtown here is a highway, Steamboat Springs, where you turn off the highway to go down your Main Street like you have in Crested Butte, Telluride, BV, and others. You have a human scale, walkable place that’s comfortable, that’s not completely overridden by cars.

(00:53:58): One of the benefits of the traditional development concept is that when you have houses within walking distance to Main Street, you can actually build out your downtown without building an abundance of parking lots. Tons of parking lots will ruin a downtown faster than anything. But if you don’t have enough houses within walking distance or enough residential density within walking distance, then you don’t have the ability to build a downtown without parking. 

And so we have, again, in our favor a downtown area that is compact, connected. The streets are interconnected, it’s walkable. And so interconnected streets allow a lot of traffic to flow through without really big, wide roads.

(00:54:42): In suburban sprawl like you see in wherever, a lone tree or a Highland ranch or whatever, the way that those neighborhoods are all built is they’re all isolated from one another. So you have an apartment built complex, you have an neighborhood, the streets don’t all interconnect. They all feed out to collector and arterial roads, and then they feed to the highway and everybody gets out on the highway. And so you need these giant road systems to connect places. And then everything naturally gets pushed very far apart.

(00:55:10): Not to get too in the weeds, but one person on average I read in a retail book supports 20-sq. ft. of retail. Each house on average has 2.5 people. Each household on average supports 50-sq. ft. of retail. So BV has a very small grid that we don’t like. If you go to Durango for example, it’s 13 blocks in depth to where you hit the hill where the campus is to Main Street, and then it’s whatever, 20 blocks in length. BV doesn’t have 13 blocks in depth. It has a couple blocks in each side before you’re out of town. 

What would be in the best interest for BV in the long run is to do infill development, which is development on existing lots within the existing historic downtown and South Main, which is all walkable, it has to be walkable, as densely as they can build that out while still maintaining the scale and aesthetic that we currently have, which is a maximum of three stories. It’s mostly one and two stories. But building each lot, covering those lots, that’s going to give you the most vibrant downtown with the least amount of traffic.

(00:56:26): The beauty of a house being built in downtown is it doesn’t actually require another parking spot on Main Street. It’s easier to walk a block or two than it is to get in your car, drive over there, find a parking space. And there isn’t a popular downtown in the country or in the world that doesn’t have a parking problem. So I think a parking problem’s okay. 

And I know there’s enough parking because when they do BV Strong and there’s like thousands of people, they’re still parking. If you actually look at all of the on-street parking and all of the alley parking and everything else, I think that we have plenty of parking. And we also have these relief valves between the River Park and the railroad street right of way, but infill development is our friend because it allows us to build out the downtown and allows us to create a vibrant downtown without making huge roads, which is a benefit of our town.

(00:57:19): We have good genetics, whereas suburban sprawl does not have as good of genetics because every car, every household adds more traffic. More traffic, you need bigger roads. Bigger roads changes the quality of life. You all of a sudden are sitting in traffic. You’re all of a sudden your quality of life is degraded. Whereas in a downtown area, every house is actually adding to, “Now there’s another restaurant that opened up. Now I can get more variety, another store, more services” and all of that.

Adam Williams (00:57:50): You ran for mayor a while back.

Jed Selby (00:57:52): Yeah.

Adam Williams (00:57:52): I’m just thinking about all this knowledge and all this insight and all this, everything in terms of city planning and development and what’s good for the town and what’s good for community and what’s good for economics. I don’t remember how many years ago that was. Can you remind me?

Jed Selby (00:58:06): That was 2000… I can’t remember, ’16 or ’17.

Adam Williams (00:58:09): You did not win that election, right?

Jed Selby (00:58:11): It was really close. I think I got like 25% of the votes.

Adam Williams (00:58:15): Okay. Okay. Did you present a lot of this sort of thinking at the time? Did you have that at the time?

Jed Selby (00:58:21): I tried to lay a few things out there. I actually did a couple write-ups about road design, for example. And the reason I ran for mayor is I’m not huge into politics and I’m an independent. I don’t like all of the division of national level politics.

Adam Williams (00:58:42): Yep, yep, yep. My question is always, why? Why run for anything in politics even at the local level? Because-

Jed Selby (00:58:47): Well, the local level is the only politics that I find interesting. And the reason is that there are major strategic things that impact our town actually. For example, street design. I was disappointed when CDOT, Colorado Department of Transportation came to BV and they rebuilt our highway. 

They did a traffic study and they said, “Hey guys, you don’t actually need four lanes. You only need two for the amount of traffic that you have. And if you go to two lanes, you can add bike lanes, you can add on street parking, and you can really scale down the street.” Del Norte did this, Leadville did this.

(00:59:26): And all of a sudden you’re like… And I was like, “Man, what an opportunity.” There’s a whole movement in street design called a road diet where you narrow down the number of lanes, you actually get a similar amount of capacity. And now when you’re driving down, you have more opportunity to stop into our stores, more opportunity to see the stores because you don’t have a car blocking one side. It’s safer for pedestrians, it’s safer for bikes. It connects the town.” 

And the town was like, “Well, we don’t want to go backwards.” It’s not going backwards. It’s making the town more pedestrian-friendly. It’s making it more economically viable. It is a known fact that retail does better on these types of streets.

(01:00:09): Yet we made the mistake of telling CDOT they were wrong, we knew what we’re doing and we ignored them and we still have a road that’s dangerous to ride your bike down. And so that pissed me off honestly. I was like, “What a dumb thing to do.” So that happened. 

And then we have a water report from 2010 and it basically said, “We’re going to run out of water if we don’t go buy water.” They had just done a moratorium on housing in a time where we have this incredible housing shortage, in a time where our sales tax for the first time in a very long time, dipped. This August was below last August.

(01:00:52): A housing moratorium, it puts the brakes on new housing permits and new developments. Sometime in the next year or two, we’re going to see a gap in work because the projects that were formerly permitted are going to be done and there’s going to be a gap between the new ones get their permits. 

A lot of people may see a gap in their work, which they cannot afford. There’s sort of this and they’re like, “Well, we have to do the housing moratorium because we’re out of water.” And I’m sort of like, “Okay, so you’ve had 13 years that you knew this was coming and we didn’t solve the problem.” I’m like, “This is crazy.”

(01:01:32): Here’s some math on water, which I think are just interesting numbers to consider. I know water is short everywhere. You can buy a well permit from upper Ark Water Conservancy District for like, I don’t know, 3,000 or $4,000, something like that. And the town can get those water rights from upper Ark. They’re doing some of that now. They could go buy a ranch, they could do whatever. 

When you build a house, the average house probably costs about $500,000. That creates a lot of jobs. People go buy their concrete from ACA products, they go buy their lumber from Rocky Mountain or from Alpine Lumber. They go buy their windows locally. Now when you buy stuff on Amazon or when I order a fridge and I put my address in, I pay sales tax and it goes to the local economy. They get way more than $4,000 back by just allowing the house to be built immediately in those taxes.

(01:02:32): The amount of money that hits the economy compared to the $4,000, I mean when you have something that’s less than 1% of the average cost of construction driving the entire boat, you’re letting the tail wag the dog. They could easily go and they could overpay for a ranch. They need to go buy water.

(01:02:55): I read a comment in this article that came out in The Colorado Sun recently that said, “Hey,” it was from one of the town staff and they’re like, ‘we will get water if we see projects that fit our vision or something like that.” I’m paraphrasing. But it wasn’t like, “We’re getting the water and then we’re going to have it and then we’re going to allow the economy to function.” It was, “We’re going to wait and see what ideas come forward. And maybe we’ll get it, maybe we won’t.”

(01:03:21): Well, if you’ve known for a fact that you’ve had 13 years to get water and you haven’t gotten it, that would be the equivalent of, “I have a restaurant and we forgot to buy hamburger for the weekend and we had to stop serving people and close because we forgot to get food.” It’s the one most important thing, and I can tell you it’s only going to get harder to get it. In my opinion, we have not been nearly aggressive enough.

(01:03:48): When we started South Main, this is another interesting statistic, town Sales tax, which is their primary revenue source for a year was $745,000. This year and last year I’m probably off a little bit, but it’s over 8 million.

Adam Williams (01:04:06): Wow, that’s more than 10X.

Jed Selby (01:04:08): Yes, it is way more than inflation. The median area income is 37,000, from 15,000. And we just turned off our future. We have vacant lots on Main Street, we have vacant lots on Cedar Street and in our 1879 Grid and we are saying, “Sorry, you can’t build more housing and we have a housing crisis.” That’s crazy. It’s absolutely crazy.

Adam Williams (01:04:36): Would you run for Mayor again or any other sort of leadership role where you could maybe have influence in a formal way to put these things forward?

Jed Selby (01:04:47): Well, I recently joined the Chaffee Housing Authority. I’m on an advisory board. My idea is we need a funding source and a plan of how we’re going to build the housing. And I think the Chaffee Housing Authority is a great entity. I think they have a lot of community support, they have great leadership. And I think all of Chaffee County, I think it’s at a scale that can actually address the problem. 

And so I’m really excited to work with them and see if we can’t come up with some plans, to create a funding source, create a point system on projects like these are the best projects, they’re walkable, they’re close to schools, they’re high quality, they’re timeless architecture. They’re some of the principles that I think would meet the vision for what we want to be when we grow up.

(01:05:35): Now here’s sort of some big picture ideas. If you were to look around the country or the world, there’s not a lot of 3,000 person towns that have a very sufficient year-round economy. Most 3,000 person towns have very small economy and not a lot of opportunity. We’re very lucky that we live in one of the most beautiful places in the country. And we are very lucky that people want to come here. I never take that for granted because when I got here, that was not the case.

(01:06:09): So if you look at towns that are 5,000 people, there’s just that you might all of a sudden have a car dealership. You might all of a sudden have a regional shopping facility and then get to retain sales tax. Our sales tax, largely a lot of it goes to Salida because they have things that in a town of that size you can have that you can’t have in a town of 3,000. So we’re exporting our sales tax.

(01:06:34): Once you are a certain scale, and I think this is the question, what do we want to be when we grow up? I’ve read all the reports of the comp plan, the envision plan. We want to be a sustainable economy. We want to have jobs. We want have opportunity. We want to have families. We want a lot of things. We want to have a balanced community. We want to have entertainment and culture, and we want to have good restaurants to eat in.

(01:07:00): So what does that mean? Does that mean that we are… If we’re going to maintain our quality of life and we’re going to maintain the things, we don’t want to ruin BV, but with a good plan, I know for a fact that with a good vision and a good urban design, good architecture, a good street plan, we can build and only enhance the things we like and actually create more opportunity, have more year round. For example, the hospitals in Salida. All of those jobs are in Salida. All of that, we are giving our wealth to them as opposed to retaining that.

(01:07:43): So let’s say we want to be a town of 10,000 people a hundred years from now, and this is how it’s going to look, this is where it’s going to go, this is how we’re going to make sure that it’s bicycle-friendly, pedestrian-friendly, this is how we’re going to make sure we don’t ruin the place. That’s the way I would be thinking about it. And then I would say, “How much water do we need?” Well, here’s some more simple math. It’s a little oversimplified, but it’s I think fairly accurate.

Adam Williams (01:08:11): That’s probably better for me.

Jed Selby (01:08:12): Okay. All right. So when you buy an upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District water tap, you’re buying 1/10 of an acre foot of water, okay?

Adam Williams (01:08:23): Well, I’ll go along with you, but you’re already over my head in this knowledge.

Jed Selby (01:08:27): Okay. So the math is actually fairly simple. So you can get 10 houses for 1 acre ft. 1 acre of grass that feeds cows, you get, on average, conservatively 1.5 acre ft. of water per acre. All right, so for 1 acre of grassland, you get 15 houses. For 100 acres of grassland, you get 1,500 houses. 200 acres, 3,000 houses. Times 2.5 people, all right? So let’s say we want to be a town of we, whatever, 10,000 people and we currently have 3,000, we need 3,000 more houses-ish.

Adam Williams (01:09:15): Do you think that people look at it that way, have that vision?

Jed Selby (01:09:18): I’ve never heard people put it that way.

Adam Williams (01:09:20): Because I think that idea of growth, we’re talking about more than three times where we currently are, and I know that there’s already been percentage wise, somewhere close to 50%, right?

Jed Selby (01:09:30): Yeah, that’s right. It was 2,000 when I got here.

Adam Williams (01:09:32): So I was at a community meeting a while back and there was talk of a new traffic light in town. One of the older citizens of the community was sitting next to me. I’ve never met the man in my life. He leans over to me and says, “Oh, they’re going to ruin the town because of a traffic light.” 

And what you’re talking about are these big visions and big ideas and how we go forward. And you’ve used the word ruin a few times. Well, we don’t want to ruin the town. So I think it’s interesting that there are different perspectives on what it looks like to thrive and be sustainable and grow and be the town that we want to be when we have different visions of what that looks like and what ruin nation looks like.

Jed Selby (01:10:12): Right. Well, I have never heard anyone oppose filling in vacant lots on Cedar Street.

Adam Williams (01:10:19): It makes sense.

Jed Selby (01:10:21): In South Main, we’re only about 20 to 25% built out. So if you just finish the existing areas in town that are planned, you would be at probably 5,000 to 6,000 just building out the existing town. That puts us to be similar to the size of Salida.

(01:10:42): Now if you do that without widening the roads and you don’t actually change where it’s still completely walkable and you’ve planted… Our town, I don’t know, I was on the Tree board for five years. I was the president of the Tree board and the reason was because one of the biggest differences between a beautiful town and a not beautiful town are street trees. It is the most fantastic improvement that you can make to improve any town. If you go anywhere, towns that have great street trees are great towns.

(01:11:21): So back to the mayor question. It’s like if I was to do something like that, I would focus on street trees. I’d focus on obtaining at least a 200 acre ranch. We don’t have to build it out, but we’d have the ability to. Maybe get a 250 acre ranch and then we could plant trees and we could irrigate the parks. 

Again, it’s like, “We need more housing, so we’re going to stop short-term rentals. We need more water, so we’re going to stop. We’re going to drive up the water rates and we’re going to make sure people don’t irrigate their yards.” I would rather plan the other way, which is, let’s just go buy enough water where everybody can water their yards and you can actually have a nice looking town where we irrigate our street trees.

(01:12:03): If people don’t want to use water to plant street trees or irrigate their yards and that sort of thing in town where you have small compact lots, people have little yards, it’s like plant some flowers and water them and don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong. 

If you just look at what you get off of a 200 acre ranch for beef, I mean, our restaurant alone goes through a lot of cows a year. I mean it’s like… I can’t remember. It was some astounding amount of water per pound of beef. I mean, I don’t remember off the top of my head, but it’s like 5,000 gallons of water creates 1 lb. of beef. I’m like, “Let’s get water for our town. Let’s actually-“

Adam Williams (01:12:44): Those numbers get wild.

Jed Selby (01:12:46): They get wild.

Adam Williams (01:12:46): And in per beer and per… Everything that we so easily say, “Oh sure, this is part of my daily life.” And there is a massive impact in terms of water for those things.

Jed Selby (01:12:55): Quality of life would be higher if it was in a well irrigated town.

Adam Williams (01:12:59): To be clear, were we just announcing your candidacy for mayor? Are you running again?

Jed Selby (01:12:59): Definitely not.

Adam Williams (01:13:06): So we’ve talked about a lot of very important subjects and things that you have, insights and perspectives on, and so I’m really grateful for that. I also though it had this goal of getting to know who you are behind this knowledge, and I don’t know how much of that we’ve hit. 

I’d wanted to talk with you about your passion with music. There have been efforts with live music both at the Surf Hotel, with Ivy Ballroom, on The LAWN, with The Meadows and festivals, Billy Strings, Dierks Bentley. You have so much that you’ve developed in that sort of vein of passion too that goes beyond the physical building of a town. I think you’ve taken up kite surfing in Mexico. You’re also a pilot, is that right?

Jed Selby (01:13:54): Yeah, I’m a pilot.

Adam Williams (01:13:55): I mean, I want to know about some of these things too. And our time, unfortunately, is getting low here.

Jed Selby (01:14:00): Sure.

Adam Williams (01:14:00): So I don’t know what lane you want to choose.

Jed Selby (01:14:02): The most important thing is flying airplanes. No, I’m just kidding. I got my pilot’s license in 2006. I love flying. But I think music is probably the other most important thing.

(01:14:12): When I was 14 years old, I know it’s hard to believe, but I was a little bit of a troublemaker in high school. I was shoehorned into the system, which I didn’t necessarily enjoy. When I was 14, I went to my first Grateful Dead concert and I was blown away.

Adam Williams (01:14:33): Who took you?

Jed Selby (01:14:35): I went with my friend and his dad. My sister Katie introduced me to the Grateful Dead. But it was like the first time I was like, “Holy crap, this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. This is where I belong.” So I ended up going to as many Grateful Dead concerts as I could in high school. I saw them actually nine times with Jerry Garcia before he passed. I had tickets to the whole fall tour in 1995 on the West Coast. But I love live music.

(01:15:05): Music is so incredible because it’s this thing that you can’t see it, you can’t smell it, and it’s one of the most powerful things in the world. It’s one of the only things that will bring people together regardless of race, beliefs, liberals, conservatives, Christians, everyone. Everyone comes together with music. 

And it’s the ultimate shared experience where everyone, what happens there, if it all goes perfectly where the sound is perfect and the lights are perfect and the temperature and everything, you can actually just be with the people.

Adam Williams (01:15:54): This is powerful for you. There’s emotion there.

Jed Selby (01:15:58): So when we built The Square in South Main, first year we did a concert in 2006. And since then we’ve done, I don’t know, a couple hundred or more free concerts. And then it was only a dream to do larger events. And the larger events… So it’s funny. When I first walked onto the Meadows property, I was walking out there with my dad, it was just before the auction, and my dad says, “Well, what do you want to do on this property?” 

We had just walked into the Long Meadow and I was like, “This is unbelievable. We should throw a Phish concert here.” And then he thought I was kidding. He’s like, “Yeah, right, whatever.” And then in 2016, six years later, we had Trey Anastasio band who is obviously the lead guitar player for Phish.

(01:17:04): So that project out there, I probably spend more time working on music and on new construction, it’s kind of where I spend most of my time in our company. Now we have about 140 employees. And so there’s a lot of time spent on just dynamics of making… It’s been challenging to scale up and maintain the level of quality that we want just because always a lot of new people and they don’t know us, they don’t know necessarily what we’re trying to do. 

So a lot of our time gets spent working with people and trying to maintain quality at scale, which is difficult. But yeah, I spend a big chunk of my time on music. I’m a very, very big fan of the highest level of audio production you can do. And so I’m always kind of tinkering with that. Yeah, I love music. I want to always do more music and I love bringing people together.

(01:18:11): I saw an article recently that the Surgeon General says that 50% of men are lonely. It’s like he called it a public health crisis. It’s an emergency. Gatherings are the best medication I’ve ever seen for that.

Adam Williams (01:18:33): I wonder if you think about legacy. You’ve already got 20 years of vision and building and it looks like many more years are in the works and unfolding with South Main and the physical construction development of something, but we also have this development that’s many years in the works with music. Do you think about legacy and this really long view and what it is you leave behind in this town?

Jed Selby (01:19:01): I mean, now that I’ve got two kids and I’m kind of too busy to think much about that… I mean obviously I love South Main, I’m very proud of it. It’s something that I think is only going to get better. I think what’s cool, probably the best, the thing I’m most proud of is I think if I was to not be here tomorrow, I think that it would continue and I think it would be just as good or nearly as good as if I was here because I think our core team has been with us since the beginning and what we’re doing is part of our genetics now. So there’s a lot of support in a lot of places that uphold our vision and we talk a lot about it internally.

Adam Williams (01:19:55): I’m going to ask one last question, and that is, if you’re able to put into a nutshell what it is that motivates and inspires and drives you, what is that spirit of you and who this person, Jed Selby, really is that maybe, like I started the conversation, maybe a lot of people in town don’t understand and don’t see and know?

Jed Selby (01:20:18): I think what we’re doing, if you’re to really drill all the way down to the… We’re essentially creating a container for people to thrive and prosper and experience love. And I think that’s at its core, that’s what we’re doing.

Adam Williams (01:20:42): I suspect a lot of people in this abstract idea of who you are are not aware of the emotion that I can feel and see and that they can probably hear listening to this right now, the sensitivity and the love that goes into the passion that goes into all of this work.

Jed Selby (01:21:01): Yeah, it’s a difficult job. I’m not going to lie.

Adam Williams (01:21:05): Is it hard to be… I don’t know if lightning rod is accurate or not, but as someone who, I think by the nature of having opinions in this world, we make ourselves lightning rods and we draw counter opinions. By the nature of creating and putting something out into the world, we draw opinions and all the subjectivity around whether that was a good thing or not. And so naturally, you are a person with big ideas. You’re doing big things. And I suspect then that there are people who have those opinions. Do those hurt you? Are you able to shrug them off?

Jed Selby (01:21:43): Well, when we first were attacked early on, it used to really rip me apart and in particular my sister. I don’t know if numb is the right… Actually, I used to drink a lot of alcohol, probably for good reason. I haven’t had any alcohol for a while, about a year and a half. But I think one thing that I have is a really bad memory, and so I think it actually works in my favor.

Adam Williams (01:22:18): It could be a good thing.

Jed Selby (01:22:20): Actually, I always joke that anyone that’s been a contractor for a long time has a really bad memory, because otherwise they would remember all the reasons not to do it. I won’t say it hasn’t affected me, but I believe in what I’m doing. And I also understand people are afraid of change. And I think a lot of people that don’t like it probably don’t understand it. We’ve talked a lot about trying to communicate more. As a company, we don’t really communicate that much, which is probably-

Adam Williams (01:22:55): You mean with the public?

Jed Selby (01:22:56): With the public. We don’t have a lot. We don’t say a lot. You don’t see me out saying a lot. I don’t use social media, I don’t really. My core group knows what I believe and why, and we sort of just have our heads down and keep working. That’s kind of how we do it.

Adam Williams (01:23:16): Jed, I want to thank you not only for this conversation, but I want to also acknowledge that it is because of what you have built in our building, it’s because of the influence and the ripple effect of that. You described 20 years ago, most of Main Street being boarded up. My family, my wife and I, our two sons, we would not have moved here at that time and it wouldn’t have worked for us. 

We are only a few years in to this community, but want to be engaged and involved. The only way we could come and do that was because there was high-speed internet and because there were the amenities like the trails and like the restaurants and something like South Main with live music that makes this quality of life so much richer for the reasons that we want to be here. So I thank you for that and for making this a place that we can come live our dreams and be in this most amazing place.

Jed Selby (01:24:12): Well, thanks for coming. It wouldn’t be a community without people like you here.

[Transition music, guitar instrumental]

Adam Williams (01:24:27): Thanks for listening to the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream Podcast. If our conversation here today sparks curiosity for you, you can learn more in this episode’s show notes at wearechaffee.org. 

If you have comments or know someone in Chaffee County, Colorado who I should consider talking with on the podcast, you can email us at info@wearechaffee.org. 

We invite you to rate and review the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or whatever platform you use with that functionality. We also invite you to tell others about The Looking Upstream Podcast. Help us to keep growing community and connection through conversation.

(01:25:03): Once again, I’m Adam Williams, host, producer, and photographer. Jon Pray is engineer and producer. Thank you to KHEN 106.9 FM, our community radio partner in Salida, Colorado, to Heather Gorby for graphic and web design, to Andrea Carlstrom, director of Chaffee County Public Health and Environment, and to Lisa Martin, community advocacy coordinator for the We Are Chaffee Storytelling Initiative.

(01:25:25): The We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream Podcast is a collaboration with the Chaffee County Department of Public Health and the Chaffee Housing Authority, and it’s supported by the Colorado Public Health and Environment Office of Health Disparities. You can learn more about the Looking Upstream Podcast and related storytelling initiatives at wearechaffee.org and on Instagram and Facebook at We Are Chaffee. 

Lastly, until the next episode, as we say here at We Are Chaffee, “Share stories, make change.”

[Outro music, horns and guitar instrumental]