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Election pending on charter change

Staff Writer

A plan to amend the Home Rule Charter of the Town of Pagosa Springs so that any development on Reservoir Hill would first have to get by town voters cleared its first hurdle this week with the announcement that more than enough signatures were gathered on a petition submitted to the town.

“We did receive the petition regarding Reservoir Hill and the charter changes,” Town Clerk April Hessman reported to town council at its Tuesday night meeting. “I received that back on October 27 with 276 signatures. I did certify that 212 of those were registered electors in the town.

“Initially it required, I believe, 112 signatures. So, at this point, the town’s legal counsel is preparing an ordinance that I’ll bring to you on Dec. 20 regarding setting the date for a special election and the timeline that will go along with that.”

Earlier, at the town council’s Nov. 21 meeting, Christine Funk, one of the board members for the newly-formed Friends of Reservoir Hill, said, “We don’t want the chairlift and alpine coaster in our park, but we are interested in making it more viable to the economic impact you talk about, as well as more attractive for our locals to use. I have heard back from many of the petition gatherers for the special election that the overwhelming consensus is the public isn’t interested in those amenities at this time and the special election will not come out in favor of the TTC plan as it is now presented.”

In a phone interview, Mayor Ross Aragon responded to the news of the successful petition drive and the resulting special election that should occur in April 2013.

“I think it is sad that it had to come to that. I think the townspeople are reasonable people. One of the things the opposition is stating is the public isn’t getting the chance to be involved, and I would dispute that, because I think we have documentation there has been over 70 meetings, so I don’t know how much more you can do, and that’s really a frustrating sticking point for me.”

In her earlier presentation, Funk said, “Jeff Greer, one of our board members, remembers when former city manager Jay Harrington and Mayor Aragon worked to bring people together to move projects forward with all parties considered. The Friends want to be a part of the cooperative effort.”

“There are so many people who think this is a done deal,” Aragon argued, referring to the TTC’s version of Reservoir Hill development. “I, for one, don’t think it is a done deal. First of all, we’re going to have to come up with a bunch of money, and I don’t see us coming up with a bunch of money, at least not in the near future, and I’ll guarantee we’re not going to borrow money to do that. You’d have to borrow that money over my dead body.”

Later, when Larry Fisher, of the TTC’s Reservoir Hill Task Force, was asked if the group planned to hold off on the project until after the election, he responded, “Oh, absolutely. There was no question about it. When they said they were going to do it we knew they should be able to get enough signatures, and we knew that we would hold off until the vote went through. We definitely wouldn’t want to put something in and then say, ‘Oh, it’s grandfathered in.’

“Whatever the people want to do or don’t want to do, that’s what we will go with. We are still looking at funding and still considering it, so if the vote shows that people want the project in there, then we would be ready for it. It would obviously be a tentative thing, but we are still looking for the best possibilities for funding.”

“I haven’t really been too excited about it, because it’s a concept,” Aragon reiterated. “People are ready to bail off the deep end because they think it is a done deal and it isn’t. I think the people who have circulated this petition are alarmed for no reason at all. I am doubtful, because of the lack of resources, that this is even going to come about.”

ed.fincher@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on December 6, 2012.