Dear Editor:

Pagosa First claims a victory for the community on Wal-Mart. While the dust has still not settled, pending an appeal to town council, Pagosa First has delayed the process long enough to get meaningful concessions from Wal-Mart for our community — in spite of the town and county governments trying to take shortcuts to push this through.

 The Wal-Mart we are possibly getting is vastly superior to the base-model Wal-Mart that the town government was ready to accept. Wal-Mart has offered other design concessions like better landscaping, better screening, better lighting, and it appears a much-improved drainage plan to ensure that parking lot runoff is cleaned up before draining into the wetlands and Pinon Lake.

 With Pagosa First providing a conduit through which the people can focus and amplify our voice, the Wal-Mart we will get is far better (although still not ideal) than it would have otherwise been.

 Rest assured, Pagosa First will continue to advocate that Wal-Mart stay on track to become a truly responsive and responsible corporate “citizen,” a good neighbor, by asking that they move forward on a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) immediately. Durango has one, so why can’t Pagosa Springs? This CBA, at a minimum, should address the eventuality of a dark store should Wal-Mart not find small Pagosa Springs financially viable, or if they choose to close this store and build a bigger one elsewhere around the community (like they did in Cortez). It seems that the town should have learned by painful experience that this is a hugely important item to address. We should also ask for contributions to the Town-to-Lakes Trail, at least from town to Wal-Mart for safe bike and pedestrian access. We should demand they adhere to the dark skies ordinance with lights out at 10 p.m. And, let’s get all of their promises (i.e. fertilizers and pesticides will not be stored outside) in writing through the CBA.

 Pagosa First has done the job that the town and county governments should have been doing before they invited Wal-Mart into Pagosa Country.

Susi Cochran

This story was posted on September 26, 2012.