BZ summer talk with Mayor Urban Singler
From questions from Bernd Fackler
Sun 23 August 2020 at 12:11 pm
Gutach im Breisgau
The Gutach community currently – like many other communities – has to pay attention to the development of income. At the same time, with better transport connections, new tasks arise that require investment.
The large area municipality Gutach in the middle Elz Valley comprises three districts: Gutach, Bleibach with the town hall and Siegelau. In the current expansion of the Elz Valley Railway, it has a key position as a transport hub. The faster connection promises Zuzge, commercial settlement, feeds the hope for more tourism. This poses new tasks, the fulfillment of which is not made easier by the uncertain budget development. Mayor Urban Singler commented on the general conditions and opportunities that currently exist in his community.
BZ: How does Corona affect the community’s financial freedom of movement?
Singler: The effects of the corona pandemic on municipal budgets are undisputed, an exact figure for the shortfall in income or additional expenditure cannot be estimated at the moment. The municipality of Gutach im Breisgau, like all other municipalities, has lost revenue and expenditure has grown noticeably. Income is missing due to declining tax revenues (income tax, corporation tax, trade tax) due to the lock-down measures. It will certainly take up to five years to get back to “normal” tax revenues in this area. In addition, the municipality lacks income from childcare, cultural institutions and administrative services. Increasing expenses can be seen from the purchase of protective equipment.
BZ: Do certain important projects have to be put on hold for the time being?
Singler: No, at this point in time I don’t see any currently planned, important projects having to be postponed.
BZ: What do you hear from local companies on this subject?
Singler: Of course, the corona pandemic also has serious effects on our operations. Some local companies have had their trade tax prepayments for 2020 reduced by the tax authorities because sales have plummeted and orders have been canceled or postponed. The communities are already very excited to see how the September tax estimate will turn out.
BZ: Are you thinking of reducing business tax to make things easier?
Singler: That would be nice if the Gutach community could afford something like that. As a financially weak municipality, a lowering of the trade tax to make business easier for Gutach im Breisgau is certainly not up for discussion, since otherwise we would run the risk of being unable to fulfill our duties.
BZ: Building land is also rare in Gutach. Is the municipality planning further development areas?
Singler: Of course we will try to develop further building areas, as the demand here in our community is still very high and in the meantime all plots in the building area “Alte Ziegelei” have been sold and there is a lot of building activity there. Unfortunately we were not able to offer a lot to all interested parties. The area was marked three times.
BZ: The “Alte Ziegelei” construction area is in full swing. How many people will find housing there?
Singler: As part of the development work, 42 building sites were developed there, which offer around 170 people living space.
BZ: Houses and apartments in Waldkirch are becoming too expensive for many builders and tenants. Does Gutach see itself as a good, cheaper alternative? Or have you already noticed a shifting effect?
Singler: Gutach always sees itself as a good and attractive alternative to other places, not just to Waldkirch! We have been promising settlement pressure from the Freiburg region and from the anterior Elz Valley for years, but we cannot compensate for this under any circumstances. So far we have had reasonably moderate land prices, but we have also seen significant price increases here in recent years. Due to the expansion of the Elz Valley Railway, which is generally to be regarded as very gratifying, this situation will certainly get worse again in the coming years.
BZ: With the tourist office in Bleibach and the future crossing station in Gutach, the community will become a hub for tourism and local transport. How will that work out?
Singler: I hope positively for the entire tourist destination “Second Country”. The expansion of the Elz Valley Railway and the associated better frequency – half-hourly and overall improvement of the PNV – will make the entire second part of the country even more attractive, even for day tourists.
BZ: Local businesses also need space and expansion options. What about another expansion of the “Stollen” industrial park, which is very conveniently located? Or do you have other ideas on this topic?
Singler: Of course you are absolutely right. So far we have been able to cover the needs well in the past, but are currently reaching our limits. Due to existing restrictions due to land use plans and regional planning requirements, there is currently only one possibility of expansion in the “Stollen” industrial park. Unfortunately, the community in this area has little of its own land and is therefore dependent on the cooperation of numerous private landowners. In times of zero interest rates or even negative interest rates, however, it is difficult to get hold of such private property. But we will stay on the ball.
BZ: Gutach will soon be allowed to participate in an extraordinary school project. What is it about?
Singler: Unfortunately, I cannot or am not yet able to tell you anything concrete about this, as all those involved in the project are obliged to maintain secrecy and will publish a joint press release on this shortly. It is about a highly innovative electricity and heat concept, which is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. It will definitely be a lighthouse project that will shine far beyond our municipal boundaries. We and the rest of the project partners are very much looking forward to the beginning.
BZ: Siegelau has a lot of landscape and nature, but has so far been relatively little touristy?
Singler: You are absolutely right. Unfortunately, this potential has only been used to a very limited extent so far. Especially now in these difficult times, holidays in Germany are experiencing a huge upswing, which could also be used in Siegelau. But there are one or the other bright spot. In one of the last meetings of the Technical Committee, we were able to give our approval for the construction of holiday apartments in Siegelau. Maybe this motivates others too.
BZ: Starting with the Corona topic, we will end with it and still with something nice: Will you be going on vacation with your family this year? – and if not: where would you have gone?
Singler: I went climbing and hiking in the mountains for a few days at the beginning of July and will now be taking a few more days of vacation at the end of August. However, due to the increased number of infections, this is spent at home with activities where there are not too large crowds of people. Here, too, there are enough nice places to enjoy your vacation.
Urban Singler (59) is a financier and mayor of Gutach since 2006.