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Motorists traveling along U.S. 160 through uptown Pagosa Springs this week will notice a flurry of construction activity near the intersection of Alpha Drive and Aspen Village Drive, just west of the Parelli building.
In an interview with SUN staff this week, town planner James Dickhoff reported that Wal-Mart paid the town just over $1 million and turned in its developer improvement agreement for Alpha Drive on June 6. It was issued a building permit the same day.
Of the payment to the town, $513,000 was for a surety bond to guarantee that Alpha Drive is improved to town standards. Wal-Mart will also make modifications to Aspen Village Drive between U.S. 160 and Cornerstone Drive.
While the modifications to Aspen Village Drive will mainly include narrowing the median to increase the length of both left-turn lanes, Dickhoff reported that the improvements to Alpha Drive will include a fully paved road with two 12-foot wide travel lanes and a 14-foot wide center turn lane. There will also be a curb, gutter and sidewalk on the east side of the road from the highway to the townhome mailboxes beyond the Aspen Village Drive intersection.
“They are accepting the responsibility of the original developer who defaulted on that improvement,” Dickhoff explained. When Pagosa Partners, LLC originally developed Aspen Village, which stretches from those townhomes all the way to Centerpoint Church, all of the streets within the development were paved and outfitted with curbs, gutters and sidewalks. Alpha Drive, however, was supposed to receive the same treatment, according to Dickhoff, but it did not.
Once all of the work on Alpha Drive and Aspen Village Drive is completed, inspected and found to be satisfactory, the surety bond of $513,000 will be refunded to Wal-Mart.
The town also received $494,168 from Wal-Mart for its impact fees, and Dickhoff explained, “There are very specific items we can use that for, and we have to justify that anything we spend that money on is to mitigate and accommodate the particular development we collected the fees for.”
While residential developments are charged impact fees for recreational amenities, commercial developments are not. In the case of Wal-Mart, $409,000 was collected to offset possible road improvements, $15,000 was for regional public buildings, and $69,000 will go to emergency services providers.
In the past, impact fees were specifically collected for a recreation center and for a new county administration building. However, since neither facility is in the works, the town will be forced to refund those impact fees to developers after a certain amount of time.
Last year, the town amended its impact fee policy so that it wasn’t quite so specific, thereby allowing more latitude in determining what projects can be built with impact fees. Nonetheless, Dickhoff explained that the town would have to prove that the need for the improvements or the new projects is a direct result of the development that put up the impact fees.
As far as the timeline for the current construction project, during the Tuesday interview, Dickhoff said, “Now that they have their building permit in hand, we were out there today reviewing their storm water management plan and making sure they have all of their silt fences up. They have a big cobblestone entrance to the project site, which is meant to capture any sediment off the trucks going in or out of the development.”
Dickhoff explained these measures are designed to keep dirt off of town streets and the highway. In addition, there is a plan to prevent any fuel spills or other contaminants from running off the construction site and ruining downstream waters.
Wal-Mart is also required to have a dust-mitigation plan, which includes having two water trucks on scene at all times, spraying the site down with water as crews dig the foundation for the building or do construction on the roads. This will prevent dust from blowing across the highway or onto neighboring property.
“Dust is a major concern here,” Dickhoff affirmed. “As you well know, Archuleta County was designated one of the worst air quality areas in the entire nation because of this fine silt we have here.”
Crews will also be required to thoroughly spray the site each evening just in case there are heavy winds after everyone has left for the evening.
In addition to work on the store and the two local streets, Wal-Mart will also widen U.S. 160. Dickhoff estimated that within four weeks there would be one more construction zone on the highway, with crews adding an acceleration lane heading east from the Aspen Village Drive intersection and increasing the length of the westbound left-turn lane onto Aspen Village Drive.
Dickhoff also said that Wal-Mart crews will modify the pork chop-shaped islands at both the Alpha and Aspen Village Drive intersections to further discourage motorists from making illegal left turns. Both intersections are designed to only allow right-hand turns onto and off of the highway.
Dickhoff promised that at no time will both Alpha Drive and Aspen Village Drive be closed simultaneously and residents of the Aspen/Rock Ridge neighborhood will never be without access to their property.
As far as the 92,000-square-foot super center, Dickhoff relayed Wal-Mart’s plan to begin excavation as early as next week. “They’re going to start working on their building pad first, so they will be excavating quite a bit of material from that site to accommodate their foundation.”
The grand opening is scheduled for March of 2015, so the plan is to get the foundation down, get the building framed and the roof on before winter so that once it is all dried in, the interior work can be finished while the snow flies.
“Shames Construction is a very professional organization,” Dickhoff said of the general contractor in charge of the Wal-Mart project. “We are looking forward to working with them … They are very organized, very concise, very detailed on what’s expected of the project. Wal-Mart’s construction requirements are to a very high standard because they don’t want to get any criticism.”
Dickhoff concluded that, at this point, it is still too early to know how many, if any, local sub-contractors will be hired for the project.