High bids stall Wal-Mart plan


Staff Writer

Wal-Mart representative Josh Phair placed a call to the Pagosa Springs Planning Department on Oct. 9 informing the town the bids it had received from contractors for the construction of its proposed 92,000 square-foot Super Center in Aspen Village were all too high, and there would be a delay in obtaining a building permit until the company completed a new bidding process.

“They’ve postponed their ground-breaking until next spring,” town planner James Dickhoff confirmed. “Their initial construction bids came back too high and since we are nearing the end of this construction season, they felt it would be best if they went out to bid again at the first of the year.”

This has thrown a small monkey wrench into the town’s budget-making machine. When town manager David Mitchem submitted the preliminary 2014 budget to town council on Oct. 1, the anticipated sales tax revenue included an additional $300,000 from Wal-Mart and Tractor Supply Company.

On Oct. 11 Mitchem confirmed with SUN staff that figure would need to be adjusted.

“We had projected income from Wal-Mart,” Mitchem said, “figuring they would open in ’14 and generate some income in ’14. Given this decision to put off construction until the spring, we now think income will begin to flow, possibly in December, but most likely in January of ’15, because there is a couple months of delay between when the sales tax is collected and when we get it back from the state.”

In late February 2013, when Steve and Vivian Rader dropped their lawsuit against the town, Dickhoff said Wal-Mart was still on schedule to obtain its building permit within the month, break ground in the spring, dry the building in before winter, and hold a grand opening in the spring of 2014.

Several times throughout the summer, both during the monthly town planner reports to town council and when SUN staff specifically asked, Dickhoff affirmed his office’s expectation that it would issue a building permit to Wal-Mart within a couple weeks. It became a running joke.

However, serious progress appeared eminent when, on June 25, the Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust finally purchased the land in the Aspen Village subdivision. Then again, that was almost four months ago, and now this delay has popped up.

“Their building permit application has been submitted,” Dickhoff said. “We have reviewed the plans and we are ready to issue the permit, pending a few outstanding items Wal-Mart still needs to submit, and they will submit those items next year after they receive a favorable bid.”

Dickhoff confirmed the only outstanding items remaining are a payment of impact fees, which total nearly a half million dollars, and the developer improvement agreement for Alpha Drive.  Wal-Mart’s wetlands mitigation permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its access permit for U.S. 160 from the Colorado Department of Transportation have been secured.

One of the conditions for approval set by the design review board at its August 2012 meeting was for Wal-Mart to bring Alpha Drive up to town standards. During subsequent town council discussions, councilor David Schanzenbaker questioned the definition of “up to town standards,” arguing Wal-Mart should be made to install curb, gutter and sidewalk on both sides of Alpha Drive.

Mitchem argued in favor of only requiring a curb, gutter and sidewalk on Wal-Mart’s side of the street, and while councilor Clint Alley agreed with Schanzenbaker, pointing out that any new pavement would deteriorate quicker without a curb and gutter on the other side of the street, the rest of the council sided with Mitchem.

Dickhoff confirmed this week the engineering plans for Alpha Drive had been submitted to the planning department. However, Wal-Mart still needs to submit $507,000 as a surety bond for 100 percent of the engineer’s cost estimate for the Alpha Drive improvement in order to obtain its building permit next spring.