|The Walmart Battle Continues, Part Three|
|Bill Hudson | 7/9/12|
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|Read Part One
In Part Two, last Friday, I'd pondered a couple of questions. I wondered how many hundreds of dollars the Town government had allocated, to request the presence of their Denver-based attorney, Bob Cole, at the July 3 Town Council meeting. I presumed Mr. Cole’s presence had something to do with the second reading of Ordinance 773:
AN ORDINANCE VACATING THE ASPEN PARK CIRCLE PUBLIC RIGHT-OF-WAY, WITHIN THE CORPORATE LIMITS OF THE TOWN OF PAGOSA SPRINGS
This proposed vacating of a public street, Aspen Park Circle, had one purpose and only one purpose: to allow the future consolidation of six Aspen Village lots into one large lot — one large lot big enough for a typical Big Box Walmart discount store and its typical Big Box parking lot.
Mark Weiler, president of Parelli Natural Horsemanship, points to a map of the proposed Walmart location while giving his endorsment to the vacation of Aspen Park Circle.
The vacating action was seemingly taken rather lightly by the Town Council last Tuesday; only one Council member raised any legal questions about the process or the Town’s motivations, even though it was clear in the ordinance itself that some rather large planning ideas were involved in the action. If you read the ordinance — you can download it by clicking here — you might notice some of those rather large planning ideas.
The Town government, which has functioned for the past 34 years under the leadership of mayor Ross Aragon and his various friends on the Town Council, has a fairly complex set of rules to follow when approving changes to the commercial and residential landscape of Pagosa Springs; those rules are contained, for the most part, in two documents:
The International Building Code, 2006 Edition, including Appendix Chapter J, published by the International Code Council, 5203 Leesburg Pike, Suite 600, Falls Church, VA 22041-3405; and
The Town of Pagosa Springs’ official Land Use and Development Code (LUDC).
Ordinance 773, which the Council considered for its “Second Reading” last Tuesday, made several references to the LUDC.
“WHEREAS, the Town Council hereby finds that the criteria of Section 2.4.3.D.2.b(ii) of the Town’s Land Use Development Code for vacation of a right-of-way have been met, as follows:
“a. The vacation is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and other adopted
Town policies and plans, including any adopted transportation plan or
“b. The land to be vacated is no longer necessary for the public use and convenience...
“c. The vacation of a roadway that exists by right of usage shall occur only if the land adjoining said roadways is left with an established public road or private access easement connecting said land with another established public road...
“d. The vacation will not leave any land-locked parcels...
“e. The vacation will not adversely impact the health, safety and/or welfare of the general community, or reduce the quality of public facilities or services provided to any parcel of land, including but not limited to police/fire protection, access, and utility service..."
Those of us who live in this quaint, semi-dysfunctional, one-horse town occasionally have a sense that our Town leaders are getting the cart before the horse. And that’s a real problem, when you’re a one-horse town.
The language included in Ordinance 773 assumes that the Walmart development plan and lot consolidation will be approved by the Town Planning Commission at some point. That development plan was reviewed on May 22 and found to be in conflict with several elements of the LUDC... and the Walmart people were asked to return to the Planning Commission on July 10 (that’s tomorrow) with a revised plan that addresses those conflicts. But my point is rather simple: the Walmart design has not been approved, nor has the consolidation of “Lots 1 through 6 of Block 3” been approved, nor has Walmart purchased the property in question.
Town manager David Mitchem, left, fields another question from Council member David Schanzenbaker — the only Council member to raise any questions about the proposed street vacation in Aspen Village.
So the Town Council — in its apparent eagerness to increase the flow of sales taxes into the Town coffers — was getting the cart before the horse last Tuesday. They were voting to vacate a public street before we had any official reason to vacate that street. The vacation would, in fact, violate Section
2.4.3.D.2.b(ii) of the Town’s Land Use Development Code.
Seems to me, the proper time to vacate Aspen Park Circle was after the approval of Walmart’s development plan, and after the consolidation of Lots 1 through 6 of Block 3, and after Walmart plunked down the money and actually bought the parcels in question.
And in fact, the motion made at the July 3 Council meeting, by Council member Tracy Bunning, made the vacation of Aspen Park Circle “contingent” upon one of those items: the lot consolidation itself. But Ordinance 773, as published on the Town website, makes no mention of that contingency.
An even larger question might be whether the vacating of Aspen Park Circle "is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and other adopted Town policies and plans, including any adopted transportation plan or
streets/roadway plan..." It certainly doesn't seem to be consistent with the original "live/work" plan for Aspen Village itself.
When mayor Ross Aragon called for the vote, however, Town Council members Don Volger, Darrel Cotton, Kathie Lattin, Tracy Bunning, and Clint Alley voted in favor of Ordinance 773.
Council member David Schanzenbaker voted against the vacation.
Apparently, mayor Aragon was somewhat surprised that Mr. Schanzenbaker would vote against the ordinance, because the mayor quickly directed a comment in Mr. Schanzenbaker’s general direction, accompanied by an uncomfortable little laugh:
“The motion carries anyway.”
But wait a moment. I’m getting the cart before the horse, myself. There was, in fact, a rather interesting presentation given to the Council prior to the vote on Ordinance 773. That presentation came, not from the Town manager David Mitchem, nor from Town planner James Dickhoff, nor from Town attorney Bob Cole, but from a person who lives outside the Town limits, a couple of blocks from the proposed Walmart Corporation development: Vivian Rader.
Read Part Four...
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