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Council tables action on Memorandum of Understanding

With the run up to budgeting for the next year, the Pagosa Springs Town Council dispatched difficult issues while passing business that, for all intents and purposes, didn’t require a second hearing.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the town, fire district, The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District and the county that would have allowed development in lieu of standing fire code was tabled — again.

Initially introduced in May, in response to two proposed expansions of local businesses (those expansions nixed due to not meeting fire code regulations), the MOU would have added flexibility to the fire code, allowing development or expansion with the stipulation that responsible districts would prioritize that construction for necessary improvements.

While the concept sounds simple enough, council found itself in an imbroglio of territorial and legal disputes. By August of this year, Pagosa Springs Mayor Ross Aragon instructed council members Darrel Cotton and Stan Holt to head a subcommittee to investigate the issue.

Returning initial findings to council in October, Cotton and Holt determined that various sections of the town’s Land Use and Development Code (LUDC) were at odds with the spirit and intent of the MOU, suggesting a rewrite of the LUDC. Unfortunately, building codes are ultimately superceded by state and federal code (and, in the case of Pagosa Springs and Archuleta County, based on international code), leaving council with no choice but to consult with legal counsel.

According to the town’s building official Scott Pierce (presenting the first reading of an ordinance), counsel had still not untangled the various restraints that, unfettered, would have allowed the MOU. Pierce’s recommendation to table the matter was accepted without comment.

On the other hand, council addressed several zoning issues, refusing to extend a variance on one property (following numerous extensions) while reformatting zoning on a number of properties that had been (by the property owner’s petition) improperly designated as “low density residential” in the town’s 2009 LUDC revision.

After accepting a revised and preliminary contract for the Visitor’s Center (between the town, county and Chamber of Commerce), council approved the first reading of an ordinance that would change the town’s sanitation billing from quarterly to monthly.

Finally, council approved several capital improvements (amounting to over $35,000 in costs) that would be, most likely, the final revisions to the 2010 budget. Considering that sales tax revenues have performed better than expected (“We had budgeted to be down about $282,000,” said Town Manager David Mitchem during a presentation on September’s positive sales tax numbers, “and we’re at about $180,000.”), council was not reluctant to pass the requested additional expenditures.

Council meets again Dec. 7 at 5 p.m. at Town Hall, with a final 2011 budget expected for presentation at the Dec. 16 noon mid-month meeting.

jim@pagosasun.com