Town Council Denies Alpha Annexations… for the Moment

I suspect many of us were expecting another lengthy discussion, at night’s Town Council meeting, October 3 — taking into account that several items on the agenda concerned two annexation applications for parcels located within the Alpha Property Owners Association subdivision… and considering the number of Alpha property owners who had come to hear the Council’s deliberations, and perhaps weigh in with public comments.

The previous public hearing on these ordinances had lasted almost 4 hours.

One of the applications had been submitted by property owner Kelly Dunn, for a 10-acre parcel immediately south of the Harman Park subdivision, which was annexed into the town several years ago.  The other had come from a non-profit, Continuing Life Community, in connection with a plan to build a 5-acre residential complex to serve developmentally disabled adults.

As it turned out, the controversial applications — and the proposed Town ordinances that would have facilitated those annexations — were dealt with very simply, without any public comment at all.

Town Planning Director James Dickhoff, addressing the Council:

“So as you heard at your last meeting, we’d brought forward a number of ordinances for two annexations.  And I guess, in general, both applicants have withdrawn their applications.

“And I think they both withdrew their applications because they mean to really clarify the CC&R issues.  So I think their task, right now, is to figure that out first and then come back to Town Council.

“They both intend to re-submit their applications.  But at this time, they’ve withdrawn their applications.”

Last month, the Council had listened for hours to testimony for and against these annexations, focused mainly around whether the Alpha subdivision ‘Declaration of Restrictions’ would legally allow the proposed developments to move forward.  You can get more details about the two controversial applications in this Daily Post article series.

To formalize the ordinance approval process — since several annexation and zoning ordinances were still on the table — the Council officially voted to deny the previous applications, with the expectation that something similar will be coming before them in the not-too-distant future.

During the Council discussion, which was very brief, Council member Mat DeGraaf endorsed an idea that had been raised by fellow Council member David Schanzenbaker — namely, that any future annexation ordinances should include specific contingencies, that would require the applicant to build precisely what was presented to the Council during the application process and nothing different.

Mr. DeGraaf:

“For the Town to annex it, it has to be desirable.  But they are not desirable unless they have the proposed buildings on them… Without those buildings, then we don’t want it.”

Later in the meeting, the agenda allowed for public comment and I took up the microphone and responded to Mr. DeGraaf’s comments.

“I appreciated the Council members who were able to attend the EPS affordable housing presentation last Tuesday…  When we look beyond the few recommendations made by EPS, the specific recommendations — and they also threw out a scatter-shot of dozens of less specific recommendations for things that could be done by the Town or the County — there are many possibilities in front of you and in front of the County Commissioners, of ways that you could help with affordable housing.

“One of the main ways you can help with affordable housing, is to make it feasible.

“When you’re considering an annexation, where someone is proposing to build housing, it doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a ‘tiny homes’ development, or low-income housing.  The simple fact that more housing is getting built in the community is a good thing… whatever segment of the population that housing is aimed at.

“If you put too many restrictions on — say, Mr. Kelly — and you say, ‘We will only accept this particular kind of development,’ you may get nothing at all.  If you are simply content to zone the development as ‘Residential’ you may get something.

“I would just like to encourage the Council: don’t hamstring the developers who are trying to build housing.  Give them some leash.  Let them run with it. Because, if you were at the EPS presentation, you know — we are in desperate straits…

“Please consider this, as you address annexations — that it might not end up looking exactly like the original concept.  But gosh, it’s housing.”

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Bill Hudson

Bill Hudson founded the Pagosa Daily Post in 2004 in hopes of making a decent living writing about local politics. The hope remains.