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Big Box vote could include other regs

Town voters may be given a chance to decide if other large format retail (Big Box) regulations should be retained or deleted from the town’s Land Use and Development Code (LUDC). If the Pagosa Springs Town Council passes a second reading of Ordinance 751 — an ordinance that would repeal Big Box regulations outside of Section 2.4.5 of the LUDC — the matter of repealing those regulations would go directly to voters residing in the town.

Currently, town voters will decide on April 6 if a previous ordinance (743) that scrapped a section of the Land Use and Development Code (restricting Big Box development) should stand.

Ordinance 743 removed section 2.4.5 of the LUDC, regulations that limited so-called large format retail, or Big Box development, within town limits. Passed by council last summer, the ordinance was written in response to local economic conditions and the belief that section 2.4.5 was discouraging developers from looking at Pagosa Springs as a potential location for large format retail development.

Presented at the Feb. 18 mid-month meeting, Ordinance 751 would ask voters to also consider the repeal of additional Big Box regulations in the LUDC. Those regulations include the requirement of a pre-application conference for Big Box development applications, procedures for reviewing variances in Big Box development permits, variances in Big Box permits, regulations on how many stories Big Box developments are allowed, and regulations regarding outdoor displays, sales and storage for Big Box developments.

Explaining the rationale behind the ordinance, Pagosa Springs Town Manager David Mitchem said that, since voters were already considering whether or not to repeal the section of the LUDC regulating Big Box development, other portions of the code aimed at Big Box development regulation should also be considered.

“These sections are deeper in the code and refer to development over 100,000 square feet,” Mitchem said.

Council member Stan Holt asked, “Will this require two votes or will this be combined into one vote?”

Holt’s concern was that voters could be confused by two issues regarding Big Box regulations.

“My recommendation is that it is worded in a similar fashion,” said Mitchem.

Holt also expressed concerns that, if voters approved one issue but rejected the other, it could create some confusion in the LUDC’s regulation of Big Box development.

“The town would be in a real quandary if that happened,” he said.

Nonetheless, town voters will (if Ordinance 745 is accepted on second reading) decide two matters regarding Big Box regulations on the April 6 ballot. With the election just a little over a month away, the town would have to navigate potentially sticky legal issues in order to combine the two matters into a single ballot initiative.

On April 6, town voters will also decide on three council seats as well as who will serve as mayor. In District 1, council member Mark Weiler’s seat is up for election and currently has one candidate seeking that seat — Kathy Lattin (who serves on the town’s planning commission). Council member Don Volger, representing District 2, and appointed to his seat last January, is running unopposed at this point. Darrell Cotton’s seat for District 3 is open as well, with Cotton the only candidate for that seat at present; Cotton has served his district since the 1980s. Lattin, Volger and Cotton have obtained materials needed for candidacy.

With just a week to go before candidate petition deadlines, it appears that town voters will not have any choices regarding council seats up for grabs.

However, those voters will be offered options for the mayor’s seat. After serving eight terms as Pagosa Springs mayor, Ross Aragon is seeking re-election for an unprecedented ninth term. Opposing Aragon at this point is local businessman Bill Hudson.

Town residents interested in running for either the mayor’s seat or one of the town council’s district seats can pick up election packets at Town Hall and can begin collecting signatures for their petition up to the March 5 deadline date (when the packets are due back to the Town Clerk).

Petitions for the mayor’s seat require the signatures of 25 registered town voters. District seat petitions require signatures of 25 town residents who reside in the district — likewise, candidates for a specific district seat must also reside in that district.

Lists of registered voters in the town of Pagosa Springs — and voters registered in specific districts —are available at the Archuleta County Clerk’s office. There is a $25 setup fee for the lists, as well as a $.01 charge per name.

Town Council will consider the second reading of Ordinance 751 at a special meeting on March 9 at noon, in council chambers. Due to noticing requirements in the town’s charter, council was not able to consider the second reading at its regularly-scheduled March meeting. That meeting is March 2 at 5 p.m. in Town Hall.

jim@pagosasun.com