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On April 23 the registered voters from the town of Pagosa Springs will be asked to decide whether or not the Home Rule Charter should be changed so that town council would not be allowed to move forward with certain types of development on Reservoir Hill without voter approval.
In an attempt to provide readers with a fair picture of the issue, SUN staff posed the same four questions to the town council as well as the board members of the recently formed Friends of Reservoir Hill group.
Last week’s article featured the opinions of council member Darrel Cotton and all of the Friends board except Ken Levine. This week’s debate will include council member Don Volger and Levine, who wished to submit his own response, seperate from that of the rest of the Friends group.
1. Why should a person vote either “yes” or “no” on the upcoming ballot issue to change the town’s Home Rule Charter?
“A yes vote on the referendum is important because this will trigger a re-evaluation of the Town Tourism Committee’s plan for commercializing Reservoir Hill Park around a ski-lift and amusement park rides. The TTC plan was pushed forward despite reports by Davey Pitcher of Wolf Creek Ski Resort and an independent lift engineer that the lift we have is unsuited for the terrain and the proposed use. This information not being completely disclosed to the council is but one example of a questionable vetting by the TTC’s leadership in a business plan that most find unlikely to succeed and not in keeping with the image Pagosa should project.”
2. If the town’s residents do decide to change the charter, what would be your recommendation to town council on how to proceed with Reservoir Hill?
“The TTC is funded by lodger’s taxes and its purpose is to generate ‘heads-in-beds’ for the local hospitality industry. The TTC is not qualified for civic or park planning or to set economic direction for the community as a whole. Though generally well-meaning, all TTC members did not agree in far exceeding its purpose and capabilities in pushing an expensive and narrowly considered development on the Pagosa community. Our parks are meant to enrich the lives of the residents and not be a vehicle for special interest marketing. Options should be viewed that way with more input from both the Parks Dept. and our community at large.”
3. What would you like to see town council do if the people decide to not change the charter?
“The Observation Deck project put forth by the Friends of Reservoir Hill would be a significant public improvement for the park that they are willing to pay for. Hopefully the town council will embrace this group that loves the park and wants to help accomplish other compatible upgrades such as rest rooms, concert venue, better trails, and winter sport facilities. Shouldn’t a grass roots membership of over a hundred locals specifically formed to benefit the park have some significant say in its fate?”
4. Ultimately, what do you want to see happen on Reservoir Hill? Are there certain parts of the plan you like more than others? Do you like all of it? None of it? Or do you have any other ideas that haven’t been presented yet?
“It is the TTC’s insistence on this very expensive amusement ride and ski-lift plan as well as the four-million dollar price tag that are objectionable, along with the obvious visual and noise pollution right above downtown business and residences. The image projected by amusement style amenities may attract one time stops from casual tourists, but at the expense of presenting a dumbed down image of the intrinsic values that make Pagosa desirable.
“An inclusive community vision should first evolve, creating our own unique tourist niche and only then execute projects that support that vision. Reservoir Hill should always represent the connection to the mountains and the outdoors that brought us all here. It should express an image of Pagosa that we are all proud of. Reservoir Hill Park must remain a unique, beautiful and nourishing space to embrace our strengths, rather than pander to a demographic that will not build our future.”
Due to a problem with an e-mail address, Council Member Don Volger did not receive the four questions from SUN staff. However, he did offer the following comments on his own.
“Thanks so much for giving us the opportunity to share our views on this issue,” Volger began. “More than anything else, I want our local citizens to understand the debate, formulate informed opinions and vote. It would be wonderful to have a record turnout on April 23rd.
“First, let me explain that I have mixed feelings about the proposed Reservoir Hill development. Personally, and somewhat selfishly, I love the hill right now. Since I live on Hermosa Street, Reservoir Hill is like a private playground with a limited number of people disturbing my solitude. However, as an elected representative, I must place the best interest of the Town above my personal and selfish desires. I wrestle with that concept because deciding what’s ‘best’ is not always easy.
“On this issue I believe that pursuing the proposed Reservoir Hill development plan that includes mechanized amenities—a chairlift, alpine coaster and zip line—is in the best interest of the community as a whole because it should, if any of the current projections are even close, create jobs, increase tourism, and strengthen our economy. No one really knows how much increase will be realized, but many who have evaluated the proposal believe it will be significant. One of the top priorities for the Town Council is economic development and this proposal aligns with that priority.
“I think it is also important to know that allowing the Town Council to pursue this development does not mean that the hill will be changed as proposed. There are too many other questions to consider before construction begins. We need to discuss options for financing this project, formulate management plans, make decisions concerning the involvement of public and private entities, just to name a few. But one of the first steps we needed to take was to decide on the specific amenities to be considered. Essentially, that’s all we’ve done so far but would like to be able to proceed because much of what we’ve learned about this proposal has been economically encouraging, possibly even exciting.
“But this election is not necessarily about whether we will put a chairlift, alpine coaster and zip-line on Reservoir Hill. Jeff Greer’s quote was very concise and accurate. This is ‘A vote so we can have a vote.’ However, the general public needs to know that if this Town Charter amendment is approved by the voters, the proposed development will not be pursued by the Town Council because another election will cost our taxpayers more money, the time it would take to prepare for another election would significantly delay the project, and we will conclude that the majority of our constituents oppose having these types of mechanized amenities on Reservoir Hill.
“In closing, I would like to see a more diverse economy in Pagosa Springs. Many options have been discussed over the years and some are being aggressively pursued; the geothermal greenhouse project, a bio-mass electricity production plant, a geothermal electrical energy production plant, are examples. But our municipal government is funded primarily by sales tax revenue and a large percentage of that revenue is generated by our tourists. If we increase tourism, we will increase our sale tax revenue, create jobs and strengthen our local economy. The Reservoir Hill development project will increase tourism. That’s why I’m voting ‘no’ on the proposed amendment to our Town Charter and I urge our citizens to do the same and allow us, their local elected representatives, to proceed.
“Again,” Volger concluded, “thanks for this opportunity to express my views.”
This series on the April 23 election will be continued to next week, when SUN readers will be presented with arguments from Council Member Kathie Lattin, who will urge town voters to say “no” to the ballot issue, and Council Member David Schanzenbaker, who will urge voters to say “yes.”