Town will again consider vacating alley right of way

A thin strip of land, owned by the Town of Pagosa Springs and legally described as a right of way (ROW) for an alley, is the only thing preventing a local developer from modifying a prominent hill near the downtown Riverwalk, but at today’s meeting, town council will once again consider the idea of giving away that land.

Ordinance 814, which is on today’s agenda, would grant a request by local contractor Peter Adams for the town to give up the ROW for the 6th/7th Alley north of Navajo Street between his two properties.

Adams owns a strip of property between 6th Street and the top of the shale cliff. He also owns more than half of the lots on the east side of 7th Street between Navajo and Piedra streets, west of the top of the shale cliff. The town retains a ROW between those two properties.

In the materials accompanying today’s agenda, Town Planner James Dickhoff explained, “The alley ROW is not identified in any long range planning documents for a developed alley, trail segment or for utility lines. It appears unrealistic to consider a future roadway improvement or utility line installation given the severity of the terrain. Given the incredible views, a trail, however, may be a possibility, though this is not an identified trail route in any of the town’s long-range trail plans incorporated in the Downtown Master Plan or Comprehensive Plan.”

Dickhoff verified that all meetings where this issue was on the agenda have been properly noticed to the public and relayed the comments his department has received so far.

Baltazar Gallegos expressed concerns that a trail along the ROW would create privacy issues for his property, while Maria Martinez-Gallegos agreed, adding that a trail so close to the top of the cliff would be dangerous and would open the town to liability issues. Jerry Leroy Lucero suggested adding a fence for privacy and safety, and asked that a power pole be removed from his property as well, since it is not being used.

Peter Hurley and Jeff and Danielle Posey also told Dickhoff they supported the ROW vacation, while Bill Dawson suggested that if the town does decide to vacate, it should make the vacation contingent upon Adams actually submitting a development plan or a building permit application.

If the town agrees to vacate its ROW, Adams’ plan is to develop the area into private residences.

“My thought,” Adams explained to town council at its Aug. 21 meeting, “is to take the top of the hill down a little bit and simply create building pads along there.”

Franklin Anderson, a long-time local resident and outspoken opponent to the ROW vacation, has attended every meeting of the planning commission and town council where this issue has been discussed.

During the public comment section of the Aug. 21 meeting, Anderson said, “I am a fifth-generation native of Archuleta County and I’ve been here over eighty years. I’m very familiar with this because I was born on Seventh Street and I own property on South Seventh, just across from Albert Lucero’s.”

Anderson explained that at one time people used the top of the ridge quite a bit for walking and enjoying the view, but that wasn’t the point. “My main objection to this whole thing is skyline development, and I think we are losing the uniqueness of our town, and we will continue to do it unless we put a stop to it. Vacating this right of way is something we do not need.”

Greg Giehl agreed with Anderson and argued the ROW should be retained for a trail. He also expressed concerns about the density of residences in the area, drainage issues and issues with water and sewer mains. He used the property to the south as an example of what would happen when the top of the hill is removed to install buildings. When that development occurred, nearly 14 feet was taken off the top of the ridge.

The town, however, may be under some pressure to move ahead with the vacation, since Adams has offered to clean up an issue with 6th Street in exchange for granting his request.

As Dickhoff explained, “South 6th Street is outside of the platted 6th Street ROW, and instead follows the river curve through the applicant’s property. The applicant has stated he will work with the town to formalize the 6th Street ROW where the actual roadway exists. The town currently has a prescriptive right (easement) for the 6th Street alignment, however, this is very limiting on what can occur along this portion of 6th Street.”

If the town ever needed to widen the street or build sidewalks along it, Adams could legally refuse to allow the town to do it.

This story was posted on September 18, 2014.