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Wal-Mart process moves ahead

Staff Writer

Wal-Mart has submitted a Lot Consolidation and Boundary Line Adjustment Preliminary Plat, according to Pagosa Springs Town Planner James Dickhoff’s department head report to town council on Dec. 20.

A final plat is expected to be recorded with the Archuleta County Clerk sometime this month, while a building permit application is expected next month, with ground breaking planned for the middle of this summer and a grand opening by the spring of 2014.

One of the key issues surrounding the Wal-Mart development has been access to the site from Alpha Drive, and in particular the ownership of Alpha Drive. Late last year, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners offered a quitclaim deed on Alpha Drive to the town, which the town accepted, thereby claiming ownership of the road.

“Alpha Drive has already been titled to the town from the county,” town manager David Mitchem explained, “so council will have a discussion about initiating annexation procedures.”

At the Dec. 20 town council meeting, Mayor Ross Aragon said, “For a couple of these resolutions, we’re really not prepared to entertain public comments at this time, but we can act on them.” Aragon paused and turned to town attorney Bob Cole. “Can we act on them?”

“Yes,” Cole answered. “You need to move forward with those. They relate to annexations. Actually, the first three items under new business on your agenda relate to annexations, which will come back before you for a public hearing with the second reading.”

Aragon then proceeded to rush through two resolutions, 2012-21 and 22, with no public comment, no presentation from staff and no discussion from any council members.

Resolution 2012-21 states, “Town staff is hereby authorized and directed to take all actions necessary and appropriate to petition the Council to annex Alpha Drive, including but not limited to preparing the annexation petition and annexation map.”

The resolution also authorizes staff to, “Simultaneously amend the 1972 Plat to allow for the creation of additional access points along Alpha Drive, if amendment of the 1972 Plat is determined necessary or appropriate to implement the approval of the major design review approval for Wal-Mart.”

Part of a complaint expressed by Steve and Vivian Rader, who own property just outside of town limits in Archuleta County — property that is primarily accessible by using Alpha Drive — is that the original plat limits the number of access points along Alpha Drive, thereby controlling the amount of traffic on the road and allowing freer access to those residents who must use the road to get to their property.

“The reasonable person would question whether the TC would today be addressing the Alpha Drive issue further had there not been litigation filed in a attempt to require compliance with well-established state statutes,” Vivian Rader argued in an e-mail sent to SUN staff. “Likely, had there not been a challenge, the TC would have simply pretended a Quit Claim was sufficient, having already approved a plan that would alter Alpha Dr and its traffic flows affecting us nearby residents significantly.”

Ironically, while the above resolution authorizes town staff to prepare and submit a petition for annexation, the next resolution, 2012-22, actually contains said petition (there was hardly a pause for breath, let alone any discussion or preparation, between the two votes on the resolutions) and is, “A resolution of intent to annex certain property known as Alpha Drive and finding the petition for annexation no. 2012-02 to be in substantial compliance with section 31-12-107, C. R. S.”

Since this is a resolution, there must be a second reading where the public is allowed to speak before it is officially adopted, so section 4 of the resolution states, “A public hearing for the purpose of finding and determining whether the property proposed for annexation meets the applicable requirements and is eligible for annexation is set for February 5, 2013, at the hour of 5:00 p.m., at the Town Council Chambers, which is not less than 30 days nor more than 60 days from the effective date of this resolution.”

Another item on the agenda for the Dec. 20 town council meeting read, “Discussion Regarding Rader et. al. v. Town of Pagosa Springs et. al. with Possible Executive Session to Receive Legal Advice … .”

A phone call to Cole revealed, “The purpose of the agenda item will be to discuss with the attorney, Steve Dawes, who has been appointed by the town’s insurer to represent them in the matter. He is coming down and wants to talk to the council, myself, and the three other non-council defendants in executive session. Nothing that I am aware of has happened in the lawsuit at this point.”

“A friend emailed me an agenda,” Vivian Rader wrote, “and so I also noticed there are items on today’s TC agenda regarding Alpha Dr – which is a cause of action in the federal litigation.

“We have not been monitoring the Walmart progress since that is not the focus of our litigation and we sought no injunction. Walmart is NOT a party in the litigation. Unless discovery supports a claim against Walmart, perhaps re that undisclosed sum of money accounted for in the town’s record I tried to review for the appeal, Walmart will not be a part of our litigation, nor are they an interested party since the litigation is focused on our denial of remedy and actions we believe committed in violations of well-established law (e.g. Sunshine Laws, Colorado Recordation Act, etc).”

At an earlier town council meeting, Mitchem requested an amendment to the 2012 budget and explained, “The town attorney, Mr. Bob Cole, has been working very diligently on the issues that the Town has faced this year. Due to some extraordinary situations we believe the $80,000 budget for the attorney will not be adequate for 2012. Assistance with the 2012 election, charter changes, conflict of interest, Wal-Mart (although Wal-Mart is reimbursing the town for the time spent on their project), the design review board appeal, as well as the attempted recall, and the possible upcoming initiative petition have put this line item over. We are estimating spending approximately $30,000 over this budgeted line item.”

Mitchem requested that the $30,000 be taken out of the reserves from the general fund, and while the council agreed, council member Tracy Bunning asked, “The cost of defending the town in this action we have been discussing, will those expenses be reimbursed to the town?”

“That will be the action of the town,” Mitchem responded. “Our response to that suit is to recover all expenses. Note that it is up to the court to make that decision, but, yes, that will be our request to the court. Wal-Mart has been paying for both design review by architects and engineers the town has hired, and legal expenses, but this is above and beyond anything related to Wal-Mart.”

We take no joy in having to litigate,” Rader wrote, “but were denied remedy when the TC set our appeal on a date we absolutely could not attend and the mayor proceeded with a vote to set same without following TC’s own rules regarding preservation of public comment periods Steve and I had both signed up for, in the event there were issues that needed to be addressed — like our complete unavailability on the new, unilaterally determined date and time for our appeal, something beyond our control and where no LUDC timetables/structure/procedures were ever adopted for same.”

Mitchem later confirmed that Wal-Mart is not named in the federal lawsuit the Raders have filed against the town, and the suit has had no effect on that company’s plan to build a 91,000 square-foot supercenter on the corner of Aspen Village Drive and Alpha Drive in uptown Pagosa Springs.

“They’re still moving forward. They’re not waiting. They’re processing their initiatives with both CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) and the Army Corps of Engineers, and it is my understanding that they are taking steps to move that process forward. They haven’t stopped. They’re moving forward.”

“Rumors that we are hiding out or left town are completely false and inflammatory,” Rader concluded. “Rumors that we are not even full-time residents here are also ridiculous. We were always very private people, thrust by the Walmart announcement to build so near our property, and which would deny us the very lifestyle we had invested in, into action that by its nature was unavoidably very public.”

ed.fincher@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on January 3, 2013.
  • Dale Kruzic

    Walmart will destroy an already fragile local business community .. and Pagosa Springs will fall into the same “blandification of America” that so many other communities have fallen victim to – robbed of what made them unique and special to begin with .. all in the name of a quick buck. Nice work mayor and TC!

  • Tim hag

    Terrible,terrible idea.Walmart will eat the soul of your pure town. :(

  • Appalled Pagosan

    I am deeply, deeply saddened by the news that the town of Pagosa Springs continues to bend over backwords to welcome a big box store into our unique and quaint town. My family chose to live here because of this beauty and charm and a Walmart will negatively effects both of those. Already there are financial strains being placed on the town due to the Walmart. 80,000 dollars for legal representation is just the tip of the iceberg. How many sales tax dollars and jobs will be lost from all the existing businesses that will not survive this mega store’s domination?
    “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” Joni Mitchell

  • YGBSM

    As far as Walmart “destroy[ing] an already fragile local business community, it seems to me that Walmart would do little but hasten the inevitable. In case you hadn’t noticed, it looks like “our unique and quaint town” isn’t faring all that well WITHOUT the Walmart. And, to be quite honest, I’m tired of the limited availability of things I want or need, and having to pay a premium for the “privilege” of keeping Mom & Pop in business when comparable goods are available elsewhere for a better price. It doesn’t take long to reach the breakeven point on a trip to Durango. If Mom & Pop offer something truly unique, be it product or service, then people (including myself) will continue to shop there…until the economy tells us we can no longer afford to do so. But if Walmart offers a comparable product for less, guess what? Most folks will migrate to the savings. Paying a premium to shop at Mom & Pops that can’t compete just to keep them in business is called “charity”, not “supply and demand economics”. A significant portion of our population cannot afford to shop at the Mom & Pop “boutiques”. For my money, Walmart doesn’t offer goods comparable to Goodman’s, the
    Outfitter, Terry’s Furniture, or some of our other Mom & Pops. But where do single mothers buy kids’ clothes? Where does the minimum wage employee buy shoes? That said, based on all the kumbaya I’ve heard at all the Walmart meetings about “We’ll never shop there!”, you folks should be able to support all the Mom & Pops in a town twice the size of Pagosa…and yet…they are still struggling. Why IS that? Because they can’t COMPETE. That’s why. And there aren’t enough of YOU to support them. People are driving to Durango or ordering online. Should we ban the internet to save our quaint little town? Set up a toll booth on US 160? When the old City Market closed, a petition went around to “save” it. WHAT? You want it saved? You should’ve been SHOPPING there! Hello? Econ 101. Business 301.

    If building a Walmart at the proposed location will destroy the “beauty and charm” of that area, you have a strange sense of beauty and charm. Do you ever get anywhere else around here? Sure, it offers some nice views, if you ignore the junk, the empty lots, the “for sale” signs, the other shopping centers, etc., but there is little particularly beautiful and charming about that specific area, especially if you compare it to what lies 5-15 minutes in any direction. I do understand and sympathize with property owners whose values may be affected, but that is what government is all about: meeting the needs of the many while protecting the rights of a few. They’ll have to figure that one out.

    I’m not sure about this, but isn’t a significant portion of the non-reimbursed legal bill due to some of those residents suing the town because they don’t want the Walmart next door? And if you’re worried about how the town is spending your tax dollars, maybe some other “strategic spending decisions” might warrant a second look. Just sayin’.

    On April 6, 2010, voters “decided to scrap a portion of the Land Use and Development Code regulating Big Box development” [PS Sun, 4/7/10]. That opened the door to “Walmart Hell”, now didn’t it? This issue had been a “hot one” for a few years, the referendum being forced on the town council, yet just 404 ballots were cast, representing only 41% of the registered voters. If so many people are against it, where were the votes? Did you not care back then? Were you not aware of the vote? Did you not understand the referendum? Are you not a registered voter in the jurisdiction of concern? Could you not garner the necessary support for your cause? Oh.

    I especially like the comment about how “Walmart will eat the soul of your pure town.” Pure…that’s funny. Must be an Outlander. Yeah, and the black helicopters will be here soon, better get back on the Mothership. If Walmart destroys us, we must not have had anything all that special to begin with. Get real. The surrounding beauty will not change. The recreational opportunities will not change. Downtown had better change…or die (but that has little to do with Walmart).

    Walmart is coming. Get over it. Adapt. Overcome. Or not. Shop where you want.