Town council meets today, appeals board on agenda


According to the agenda packet for today’s meeting of the Pagosa Springs Town Council, one of the items up for discussion will be the creation of a board of appeals for decisions related to the fire and building codes.

Zach Richardson, the town’s building official, explained in his agenda packet briefing, “The Town Building Department, in conjunction with the Pagosa Fire Protection District, recommends that a single Board of Appeals be created to hear all appeals related to fire and building codes.”

Richardson’s briefing recommended the town council approve the first reading of Ordinance 818 today, which will amend Section 6.13 of the town’s Land Use and Development Code (LUDC), thereby adding section 6.13.13.

This new section stated, “There is hereby created a Code Board of Appeals (“Board”) for the purpose of hearing and deciding appeals of orders, decisions or determinations made pursuant to this Chapter 6.13.”

The section went on to spell out that this new board would consist of five regular members and three alternates. Town council and the Pagosa Fire Protection District’s Board of Directors will appoint all of these board members jointly, and none of them are allowed to be employees of either the town or the district.

In addition, two of the members must have experience with building construction, two must be engineers or design professionals and one must be an experienced fire protection professional.

“All members shall hold current professional credentials, certificates and/or licenses,” the new section specified, and similar standards were set up for the three alternates.

Initially, one of the members would be appointed for five years, the next for four, the next for three, and so on. Once the seats are staggered in this manner, all subsequent terms would be for five years. The three alternate seats would be staggered in a similar manner, and then would be three-year appointments.

The new section of the code then spelled out the two main duties of the new board.

First, “The Board shall make reasonable interpretations and may waive requirements of the Building and Fire Codes when such decisions are (i) in conformity with the intent and purpose of the applicable code; (ii) the relief does not lessen any fire-protection or health and safety requirements or any degree of structural integrity; and (iii) the material, method or work offered is, for the purpose intended, comparable to that prescribed in the applicable code in suitability, strength, effectiveness, fire resistance, durability, safety and sanitation.”

Second, “The Board shall review proposed changes or amendments to the code and advise the Town Council with respect to the desirability and necessity for any such changes and may formulate suggested amendments to the codes for consideration by the Town.”

This second duty of the board may help alleviate some of the workload from the town’s planning commission, which has in recent months spent considerable time and effort discussing possible changes to the town’s LUDC, including how to handle such issues as cargo containers, metal-sided buildings and variable-messaging signs.

Once the board of appeals is in place, anyone who disagrees with an order, decision or determination of the building or fire code official may file a written “Notice of Appeal” with the town clerk within 10 days. The board of appeals will then have 30 days to schedule a hearing, and then 30 days after the hearing to issue a written ruling.

Three or more members of the board must be present at the hearing to constitute a quorum, and at least three affirmative votes are required to reverse any decisions made by the building or fire code official. All decisions of the appeals board will be final and no further administrative review will be conducted.

If a satisfactory result were still not obtained, the next step would be to file suit in municipal court within 14 days of receiving the written ruling from the board of appeals.

Richardson concluded his briefing with a recommendation to approve the ordinance and stated, “The Town has received appeal requests, and may receive additional future requests.”

Other items on the agenda for todays meeting include:

• Town Manager Greg Schulte provided council with a detailed list of changes to the 2014 budget, including $90,000 for the purchase of the Visitor Center building from the Chamber of Commerce, $15,000 for the voter-approved salaries for the mayor and town council members, and $3,000 to help pay for a crossing guard at the elementary school.

“The amendment to the general fund expenditures of $128,750 and general fund revenues of $100,000 will leave the amended budget year end cash reserves at $1,235,924,” Schulte’s briefing states. “No amendment to the Capital fund is necessary.”

• In another part of the agenda packet, Schulte explained that because of Ballot Question No. 2, which passed the voters last April by a 322 to 242 margin, the town’s municipal court is now required to hear and try civil cases as well as criminal cases. As a result, Brett Van Winkle’s duties as the town’s prosecutor will need to be expanded.

• Annie Sewell will provide a presentation on the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program.

In addition, each department will give his or her monthly report and, in a separate meeting afterwards, Gene Tautges from the Pagosa Springs Sanitation and General Improvement District will give his monthly report.

Notably absent from the packet is Schulte’s sales tax brief, which is  usually presented at the mid-month meeting. LeeAnn Martin from the Archuleta County Finance Department explained to SUN staff during a phone call Tuesday afternoon that there was a delay at the state level and the county still had not received the sales tax information for this month.