Clay Lundgren is a newcomer to the Columbia Falls political scene. Lundgren is a native of Bend, Oregon. He and his wife Claire, moved here in 2010 after finally being able to build a house on a plot of land they had purchased.
Lundgren, 54, spent most of his career working in the bicycle industry, but today he works as the assistant manager at Jiffy Lube.
He said he’s seeing some growth in the city he’s not entirely comfortable with. The profusion of vacation rentals is making it more difficult to find affordable housing, he maintains.
“We need to make sure people have a place to live on the salaries that are available,” he said in an interview last week.
He’d like to see a study of the impact of vacation rentals on the rental market here.
Lundgren isn’t entirely unfamiliar with city government. He currently sits on a committee of city leaders and residents taking a closer look at a possible resort tax for the city.
While he supports the idea of the funding going to help pay for infrastructure and city services, he’d also like to see a bigger percentage — about 40 percent — go toward property tax relief for city residents.
He’s also like to see the tax be seasonal, running from April until October, so it’s capturing tourists dollars more and local dollars less. He doesn’t want to see locals taxed if they go out to eat over the holidays, or have to buy Christmas presents.
He noted that some other cities in Montana that have a resort tax have a seasonal designation.
Lundgren would also like to see the city foster more light industrial growth — encouraging more businesses like SmartLam to set up shop here.
Lundgren would also like to see Nucleus Avenue become more retail-friendly if possible. He’s not convinced that gyms (downtown has two) and professional offices are what make a tourist-friendly downtown.
As far as growth, some of it is going to be inevitable, he notes, though he’d like to see it grow more toward the east and west, keeping the north for recreational opportunities.
Lundgren is an avid bicyclist and has previously been on the board of the Gateway to Glacier Trail Group, which promotes bike trails in the area.