PASOGSA SPRINGS — In a recent meeting with Town Manager Mark Garcia and Town Planner Tamra Allen, an unidentified developer outlined plans to build a commercial center with a 250,000-square-foot retail space along with a strip component of 272,000 square feet on a 60-acre parcel south of U.S. Highway 160 across from the Pagosa Country Center and Westside City Market.
On Dec. 6, the town council quickly and unanimously ratified Ordinance 656, an emergency ordinance temporarily suspending the processing of applications for large retail developments. This ordinance expires June 15, 2006.
“This ordinance recognizes and enacts the previously expired big box ordinance,” Garcia said to council and dozens of community members packed into the chambers.
The previous ordinance expired Aug. 3, when council and the community Big Box Task Force failed to find an acceptable compromise on the issue.
“Since our attempt to pass a mid-box size cap ordinance failed, there have been two scheduled meetings between council and the task force and both have been cancelled,” Garcia said. “However, council and the Big Box Task Force have agreed that there should be some design criteria and they agreed to size caps in the downtown area, but there has been no size cap agreement for the remainder of the community.”
Garcia said the town was working with the county to find out where they were on this issue. County Planner Blair Leist and County Commissioners Robin Schiro and Ronnie Zaday were all present at the council meeting. Zaday acknowledged that the county moratorium has also expired, but that the county is willing to work with the town on this issue.
“The county supports planning cooperation,” Leist added.
Garcia pointed out that design criteria work is underway as part of the downtown master plan and suggested that the town may be able to expand the scope to include big box retail. Allen agreed and said it was “definitely possible,” to ask consultant Winter and Company to work on this.
Garcia said that town staff felt it was important to execute a temporary moratorium to give the town the time it needs to complete various planning projects including the master plan and comprehensive plan, which have targeted completion dates of April 2006. It will also allow the town to prepare through its Land Use Code, the regulations of which currently do not adequately address the impacts of such development. The town wants to also consider implementing impact fees and to complete the unfinished business with the big box task force.
Angela Atkinson, chair of the big box task force, agreed that the moratorium would allow the task force to complete its work to provide recommendations to the council concerning future legislation. The earlier efforts failed when council members questioned some of the task force’s data and expressed concern about square footage size caps.
“I hope that council and the task force can come to an agreement on research methodology,” Atkinson said.
In other business, the council was updated on the lodgers’ tax and informed that the state will not collect the additional 3 percent tax and that the town will have to establish their own means of tax collection. Garcia asked for permission to begin establishing a tourism committee that will provide input on how the funds will be spent. Council also approved the addition of $47,000 to the 2006 budget to fund a detailed transportation plan that will include an evaluation of parking accumulation and occupancy, and provide a short, mid and long-term plan for parking and transportation options. The same person providing the preliminary evaluation for the comprehensive plan will complete the plan, and Tamra Allen said they were confident the detailed transportation plan would be completed on the same schedule as the comprehensive plan.
“I can’t think of anything more important,” council member Darrel Cotton said.