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The audience gallery of the town council chambers at Pagosa Springs Town Hall was nearly full Tuesday as citizens gathered to witness a number of important decisions and interesting presentations; however, one issue, the annexation of a portion of Alpha Drive, garnered very little discussion amongst the council and no comment from the public.
Council member Kathie Lattin made a motion to approve resolution 2013-04, a resolution setting forth findings of fact and conclusions regarding the Alpha Drive annexation, council member Don Volger seconded the motion, and all five council members that were present voted “Aye” without further discussion. Council members David Schanzenbaker and Tracy Bunning were absent.
Before the vote, town planner James Dickhoff explained that the petition for annexation — presented to town council on Dec. 20, 2012, by town manager David Mitchem on behalf of the town itself — was in compliance with all of the requirements laid out by the Colorado Revised Statutes, and had been recommended for approval by the town’s planning commission on Jan. 29.
The next item up on the agenda was the first reading of Ordinance 784, which will actually make the annexation official after a second reading.
“I did provide a language amendment to the ordinance,” Dickhoff explained to the council, “and that’s to section number six. Just to clarify, ‘the effective date that this ordinance shall become effective and be enforced will be upon the execution of a developer improvement agreement for the improvement of Alpha Drive and the required financial security to ensure the improvement of Alpha Drive to town standards.’
“So, even after this is approved today and at the second reading, it would only become effective once we execute that agreement with the developer and we receive the financial security, typically a performance bond that would cover 100 percent of the cost of the proposed engineered improvements of Alpha Drive.”
At the earlier planning commission meeting, Dickhoff explained that, since the town was the official owner of a portion of Alpha Drive — the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners offered the property to the town through a quit claim deed late last year — and was presenting the petition for annexation to itself, it wouldn’t make sense to impose conditions for the ordinance.
However, the concern, as expressed by council member Clint Alley, is that if the town annexes the property and then for some reason Wal-Mart decides to back out of its plan to build a 92,000-square-foot super center at the corner of Alpha Drive and Aspen Village Drive, who would then be responsible for improving the road to town standards?
Dickhoff explained that the change in language he suggested, while it doesn’t set up a condition for annexation on the town itself, would solve the issue of the town getting stuck with an unimproved road. If Wal-Mart backs out, the annexation will be null and void, and the property would remain part of the county.
“Town council needs to consider the second reading within 135 days of the passage of the first reading,” Dickhoff explained, “so we can hold off on the second reading until we receive that (improvement agreement and financial security from Wal-Mart), unless we get to that 135-day period.”
He went on to reiterate his belief that the town was already sufficiently protected against getting stuck with the road by the previously mentioned language change, but it would be up to the council to decide if they also wanted to wait on the second reading of the ordinance, just to be sure.
“I would like to at least entertain the idea of having a sidewalk with a curb and gutter on the other side of the road,” said Alley ,“mostly to preserve the asphalt on that side of the road, so it doesn’t deteriorate. Also, it would probably be very helpful for public safety, so the people walking from the residential units behind the proposed Wal-Mart won’t have to cross all of the entrances where all of the cars and traffic will be.”
Dickhoff responded that Wal-Mart couldn’t be held responsible for putting a sidewalk, curb and gutter on the west side of Alpha Drive since they only own property on the east side. He cited various parts of the town’s Land Use and Development Code and explained the difference between a typical subdivision development, where the developer owns all of the land and is putting a road through the middle of it, and a situation such as Wal-Mart’s, where they only own one side.
“As we move forward to initiate the developer improvement agreement,” Dickhoff concluded, “the applicant is preparing engineering plans now for that improvement.”
In the past, the issue of Alpha Drive has been a hot topic of debate, with anti-Wal-Mart advocates such as Steve and Vivian Rader claiming the road is the main access to residential properties to the south of the proposed development and that it was never platted to have more than two access points nor designed to have so much traffic as to restrict free access to those residential properties.
However, no Wal-Mart protestors were present at this meeting, and, in the end, Volger made a motion to approve the first reading of the annexation ordinance without any change to the requirements being imposed on Wal-Mart, Lattin seconded the motion, and the motion passed without opposition.