Irrevocable change

Dear Editor:

Those who attended several recent planning commission meetings when the new Urban Service Area project was first introduced to the public and then almost immediately passed have been treated to a head-spinning series of contradictory arguments. Under this plan, residents of Archuleta County who live in semi-rural areas outside of town can expect to see a number of new urban areas in their neighborhoods, scattered miles from highways. We can expect wildlife to diminish in these areas, and the rural nature of large parts of the county to be changed forever, as new developments raze the landscape around Pagosa Springs.

But all this, we’re told, is to keep us from “loving the land to death.” Somehow, leaving about half the land as open space should compensate for squeezing maybe 25 times as many residents in the other half. Somehow, apparently, this plan will help create affordable housing and mass transit opportunities and actually improve traffic conditions. Somehow, the plan will safeguard us by discouraging developers from trying to rezone our rural areas to higher density. Instead of having to attempt a rezoning, which seldom succeeds, a developer would have a clear and relatively straightforward path to follow towards greater profit.

Residents of Archuleta County who don’t live in areas immediately affected by these USA’s have reason to be concerned as well. We’ve probably all noticed by now that there’s only going to be so much development in any period of time, even in healthy economic times. Higher density housing and new commercial projects are needed in and immediately around the town. Encouraging new commercial centers miles out from this core will just pull customers away, and could possibly lead the walkable downtown business area even closer to complete collapse.

People who choose to live in higher density areas often indicate a preference for the close proximity to town amenities. The Community Plan of 2001 clearly called for it, but any sensible development plan for a healthy community would as well: higher density and commercial areas in the core, surrounded by semi-rural and rural areas around it. Any amendments to this plan should reflect the core values that Pagosans wisely articulated. There may be only a small window left to prevent an irrevocable change to our community. It’s time to make your voices heard.

Al Bouchier

Editor’s note: Please see the article on this subject in this edition of The SUN.

Send concerns

Dear Editor:

Horseback Riders for a Wild San Juan Mountains and Colorado Wild would like you to e-mail your concerns about the proposed Village at Wolf Creek. This project, which the developer describes as a “world class mountain resort and village” to be the “premier ski and recreation resort in America” was originally proposed as a city of up to 10,000 people at the top of Wolf Creek Pass.

We believe the residents of Archuleta County have many concerns and those concerns are important. Receiving your concerns will help us better understand what the impacts will be and provide us with a more thorough list of issues to be addressed. We will catalog the concerns we receive and make them available to The Pagosa SUN newspaper. Send us your list to comments@friendsofwolfcreek.org.

A letter from you directly to the Rio Grande National Forest is also critical. The total number of letters they receive in opposition of this plan is important. The comment deadline for submitting your concerns has been extended to Dec. 31. Send letters to Wolf Creek Access EIS, c/o Content Analysis Group, 1584 So. 500 W., Suite 202, Woods Cross, UT 840102, wolfcreek@contentanalysisgroup.com, fax (801) 397-5628. Please send a copy of your letter to Rep. John Salazar, (970) 259-1012, Sen. Ken Salazar, (303) 455-7600 and Sen. Mark Udall, (303) 650-7820

The Forest Service needs to do a thorough study of what all associated development impacts will be. What will the impacts be on existing restaurants, lodging and retail? Will the projected new tax revenues cover the increased cost of needed services? What services will Archuleta County have to provide — who is going to pay for fire protection, police, snow removal, street maintenance? Where will the employees live — will they commute from Pagosa Springs? What will be the multi-year impact of construction on the recreational tourism of the region? Whose water are they going to use, where is the sewer going to go?

What will the environmental impacts be on air quality, wetlands, wetland species, fisheries, water quality, wildlife, soils, and quiet use of the national forest? Request that the Forest Service determine “reasonable access” based on the carrying capacity of the area’s natural resources.

What will the development look like from U.S. 160? Are we ready to have a complete new town at the top of Wolf Creek Pass or do we appreciate and support the preservation of the wild nature of the pass as it is now? We also need to consider the impacts of the potential large scale natural gas drilling that may happen at the same time and what that will do to the quality of our lives here.

For more information concerning the Wolf Creek Pass development see www.friendsofwolfcreek.org and www.fs.fed.us/r2/riogrande/projects/forcomment/village/index.shtml.

Beverly Compton

Unfinished business

Dear Editor:

Having made millions in Pagosa, there is one very significant piece of unfinished business that NRPI owes to investors (mostly small) in the Chris Mountain Village 2 Subdivision.

Contractually, they are obligated to provide the infrastructure for water, sewer, electric and telephone to the property line on the lots, which they sold within the subdivision. On parcels in which they were not the seller, the individual owners are obligated to pay fees directly to the utility companies for the original mainline installation as an assessment. NRPI’s commitment is for about 60 of the 120 existing home sites.

Thus far, NRPI has stepped up to the plate with PAWSD and has paid for the installation of the water and sewer lines. They asked for and received a bid from La Plata Electric for the cost of the electric lines over a year ago and have done nothing further. This leaves the homeowners in an untenable situation should they wish to build on their property, or to sell it at anywhere near the market value.

Because of NRPI’s disregard for their contractual obligation to pay for the electrical lines, any individual wishing to build would have to pay for the cost of trenching and installing the lines all the way from the Trails Subdivision to their lot line. This would add tens of thousands of dollars to the budget of anyone wanting to build a home on a parcel, which was purchased from NRPI.

To further add to the dilemma of owners in Chris Mountain Village 2, the taxes on the vacant lots have increased approximately 300 percent since NRPI came to town with their “buy low, sell high” philosophy, distorting the true land values in our community for the foreseeable future.

PAWSD has recently jumped into the fray with their hand out, by imposing monthly “water and sewer availability fees” on the owners. Yes, water and sewer lines are available, but without electricity, the feasibility of accessing water and sewer, building and occupying a home are nil. The only solution presently would be for the owners to pay much more than the value of their land to bring electricity to their lot line”— a fee that NRPI is obligated to, but just won’t pay. PAWSD could certainly help by suspending their monthly availability fees until the electric is also a reality.

Legally, NRPI has the owners over a barrel because, although their contracts “guarantee” that they will pay for the infrastructure, no time line was included in the wording. Most buyers thought that since NRPI was already paying large sums to PAWSD for the water and electric, as well. Not the case.

NRPI has made their money and the purchasers (many local) are unable to either build on or sell their lots at this time. To date this year, only two parcels have sold and no building permits have been issued in Chris Mountain 2 because of the uncertainty of full utilities. In this observer’s opinion, both PAWSD, with their exorbitant fees and NRPI with their “take the money and run” philosophy, have made future development in Pagosa Springs very tenuous.

Bill Delany

Silence and rejection

Dear Editor:

Should the church compromise?

I understand that many look upon the convicted and condemned prisoner with hatred and contempt, and so it would seem do many of the “so-called” Christian churches. Most prefer that the prisoners, regardless of the crime, remain where they are, behind prison walls. There, out of sight, out of mind and consequently out of the public and personal conscience.

A year ago this month, I returned to Pagosa for a court hearing after nearly 20 years. As I sat in cell block B of the Archuleta County jail, much as I had done many times and many years before, I read The Pagosa SUN. As I flipped through the pages, I came across a section that listed a number of churches and their addresses. I wrote down some of those addresses, one of which had the slogan, “The Church Should Never Compromise.” When I returned to my prison cell here at Sterling Correctional Facility, I put pen to paper, writing a number of the churches, including the one with the slogan.

I asked for and sought nothing but friendship, acceptance, forgiveness and the chance to reconnect with those from a place I once called home. I was greeted by silence and rejection from all but one small church. Silence even from the church whose slogan was that “The Church Should Never Compromise.” When someone such as I, turns to the one place that they should be able to find friendship, acceptance and forgiveness, only to find silence and rejection, what does that say about the church and the message they teach and claim to follow?

Some 2,000 years ago, a condemned prisoner hung on a cross next to a man who had done nothing; yet, he himself hung on a cross of his own. The condemned prisoner turned to the man next to him seeking forgiveness, acceptance and friendship. Was the condemned met with silence and rejection? No! He was the first to be taken into paradise by the one who had done nothing.

The church should never compromise. Should never compromise what? So many talk the talk. So few have the courage to walk the walk! But who am I? Just a lowly condemned prisoner.

To those from that one small church who had the courage to walk the walk and befriend a lonely old convict, I would like to say, thank you. I would also like to say thank you to the lady who, nearly 20 years ago, sat for five long days on my side of the courtroom. I never knew who you were, but I looked back often to see you there, the “only” one on my side during that five days of trial. I never forgot you and am truly grateful that you were there when there was no one else. Thank you.

David P. Hashman

Sterling, Colo.


Dear Editor:

Possibly we can get unstuck, out of a two party system Rep/Dem, one day.

If this interests you, check out Ralph Nader post-election interview, Democracy Now, Nov, 5, 2008, www.democracynow.org, or check out Ralph Nader’s site, November 5.org.

Realize, Ralph Nader was third party presidential candidate with the most votes this election for a third party.

There is hope.

Thank you,

Pam Morrow

Quality fishing

Dear Editor:

Last summer, a friend vacationing in Durango called to talk about things to do on a day trip to Pagosa. He mentioned that his kids were having a bit of trouble catching fish on the Animas and wondered about fishing in our area; I encouraged him to bring them and their fishing stuff here. They spent an afternoon catching fish out of the ponds and river behind The River Center. While he and his boys fished, his wife and daughter got manicures and shopped downtown Pagosa. That evening they ate dinner here and went to the Springs; all-in-all, a great day.

As a member of “The Pagosa Quality Fishing Project,” I was elated to personally see how well our efforts had worked in making our town a bit more attractive to tourists. In a tough economy our project is just one more “lure” to get tourists here and bring them back.

Herb Stipe

USA proposal

Dear Editor:

Thanks for James Robinson’s excellent article (Nov. 6) about the county’s intent to reclassify many outlying residential areas for high-density development.  It’s called the “Urban Services” or USA proposal.  (Note: the word “urban” should raise an immediate red flag in Archuleta County.)  Some local homeowners are going to be shocked when they look out their window in a couple years to see a high-density “urban village” where they had expected individual homes on 3-5 acre lots.

 The USA proposal actually has merit, but unfortunately it just goes too far.  And many homeowners who recently figured out what is going on — and never dreamed that the county might allow high-density development near them — are upset.  The 2001 Community Plan is being discarded in favor of an “urbanization” being pushed by the planning department staff, led by newly-arrived Director Rick Bellis.

 I know that the planning commission has some worthy goals here, but I have to ask:

 • Does high density development three miles from town (as a crow flies) fit the Pagosa lifestyle? 

• Why are there not more graduated density tiers? 

• Why not a one-mile or even two-mile limit on high-density, so it’s close to town where the Community Plan and county residents always intended it to be?

• What will this do to the hundreds of existing owners who bought homes in these areas so they could live a semi-rural lifestyle? 

• Are these “urban villages” really going to attract home buyers to Archuleta County?  Who will high-density housing appeal to — full-timers or part-timers?  Who decided that this should be our future image, planning staff or county residents?

• Why the rapid-fire scheduling of these recent hearings by the staff?  It has left citizens struggling to catch up. 

 The planning commission has a well-earned reputation for welcoming public opinion, including written, but it is now being screened out by planning staff so the commission is not confused by letters of objection from us pesky citizens.  The commission seems to have accepted this, but it should not be the staff’s role to decide which citizen opinion the commission sees. 

 Hundreds of homeowners are in for a real surprise in a few years.  The thin refrain from the planning staff is that “this does not rezone anything.”  But once they officially mark your neighborhood on county maps as suitable for high-density development, how can a future planning commission realistically say “no”?

 The next and probably final planning commission hearing on this subject is tentatively scheduled at 6 p.m on Dec. 3 at the county courthouse.

 Bruce Wilke

What did

God say?

Dear Editor:

Contrary to Buslepp (SUN Nov. 13), conservatism is not rooted in the past and status quo, and our founding fathers did not write to provide for progressive change. The tenets of conservatism and the writings of the fathers are not based on their opinions destined for modernization and evolution over time, but are rooted in eternal, unchangeable, truths of God.

I will not focus on socialism, which I addressed in previous letters. Rather, I will address two more important life issues. The first is abortion and its related issue of embryonic stem cell research, which involves the murder of pre-born children. Both are advocated by liberals, especially Obama, who recently pledged to fulfill a campaign promise to overturn Bush’s two executive orders to stay the research. Is this an example of progress Buslepp advocates?

What did God say? What is His eternal, non-progressive truth? In Exodus 21:23 God rules that if a man hurts a pregnant woman and causes a miscarriage, he shall “give life for life.” David speaks to God as being his “guide since I was first formed,” that “from my mother’s womb you are my God” (Ps. 22:10-11), and “my frame was not hidden from you when I was made in secret” (Ps. 139:15). Job (10:8) acknowledges that “God’s hands formed me and fashioned m.” Jeremiah quotes God as saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I consecrated you “(Jer. 1:5). The Didache, teachings of the Apostles c. 90 A.D., rules, “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion” (2,2: SCh 248). Our founding fathers acknowledged that God created all equal and endowed them with the right to life, an eternal truth, not a changeable whim.

The second issue is same sex “marriage” (a contradiction in terms). I saw on the news a picture of gay “rights” activists in California, who want courts to overturn the democratically determined vote to ban same sex “marriage,” carrying a large banner proclaiming, “God loves same sex marriage.” Really? What did God actually say? “If a man lies with a male as a woman, both shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives” (Lev. 20:13). Does Buslepp really think that God has “progressed” to the point of loving same sex unions today? See also Gen. 19:1-29, Rom. 1:24-27, I Cor. 6:9-10, and I Tim. 1:9-10.

Can Mr. Buslepp prove that modern developments are really God’s will and what our founding fathers intended, and that traditional and Constitutional truths are not permanent? How are embryonic stem cell research, abortion, homosexual unions, euthanasia, etc., examples of true social progress? The writers Buslepp objects to are correct, “God help us!” If He does not, and if we do not help ourselves by reversing liberals’ and Buslepp’s errors, we will pursue moral depravity in the name of “progress” to our own destruction from within.

Eugene Witkowski