BoCC restructures planning commission

The Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) voted to restructure their planning commission Tuesday, and the move comes following the board’s Jan. 22 decision to force the resignation of the entire planning commission.

In addressing the board, Rick Bellis, the county’s director of community development, described the restructuring as a series of “simple” changes, and the board-approved resolution provides the quotidian details of the forthcoming commission’s function and organization.

For example, and according to the resolution, the new commission will consist of five commissioners (as opposed to the former seven) and two alternates, one of which will be a BoCC member or their designee.

In addition, the resolution describes quorum requirements, required number of votes for recommending and forwarding approvals or denials, commissioner terms, roles and duties and the commission’s interaction with the BoCC. Specifically, the resolution reminds the planning commission that they serve as an advisory panel to the BoCC.

And therein lies part of a deeper discussion that alludes to friction between county planning staff and members of the former commission — as described in a scathing staff report released Jan. 20 — that suggests, as one remedy to the problem, that all planning commissioners be asked to resign.

The report describes the commission as a board run amok, engaged in ex-parte discussion, prone to exhaustively long meetings, indecision, inherent dysfunction, poor attendance and lacking in diversity and essential qualifications — according to the group’s own bylaws.

“As a system, it (the planning commission) doesn’t function,” Bellis said.

But former planning commissioner Lesli Allison countered, “We have an enormous list of facts that contradicts almost every statement in that report.”

Following release of Bellis’ report, SUN staff formally requested the letters of intent and resumes of all planning commission members to ascertain the veracity of the allegation that the commissioners failed to meet qualification requirements, as outlined in their own bylaws.

According to the commission’s appointment policy, “the BoCC will review the pool of applicants with consideration to geographic representation and the background (i.e. agricultural, commercial etc.) of the candidates,” in order to provide diversity in geographic location and background. According to the bylaws, architects, planners or developers from the private sector should be part of the mix.

Below is a breakdown of the former planning commissioners’ qualifications. The BoCC approved all the appointments.

Lesli Allison, Chromo.

Manager, Banded Peaks Ranch 1996 to present. Director of communications, St. John’s College 1991 to 1996; B.A., English, Columbia University; M.A. liberal education, St. John’s College.

Cary Brown, Lightplant Road (County Road 119).

B.S. engineering management, Texas Tech University; MBA in strategic and regional planning, S.M.U; PHD candidate in environmental planning, University of Texas; eight years chief of planning, U.S. Department of the Interior; three years planning director, Dillingham, Alaska.

Ron Chacey, Buena Vista Place.

Six years on the Southwest Land Alliance board; three years as an Archuleta County planning commissioner; served on the Archuleta County Citizen’s Task Force, and the Archuleta County Vision Committee.

Larry Garcia, Colo. 151.

Rancher and retired Colorado Division of Wildlife officer.

Chrissy Karas, Holiday Acres.

Former vice president of Colorado Preservation Inc., founder and first president Cripple Creek Historical Society; developer of Eagle’s Ridge in Bayfield; licensed Realtor; town of Cripple Creek planning commissioner.

Edith Newberg, Rainbow Drive.

Twenty-one years experience in all aspects of commercial and residential lending; assistant vice president and business relations manager with Wells Fargo Bank in Pagosa Springs; private consultant in real estate, finance, accounting and management.

Judith Reilly, east U.S. 160.

Thirty years with AT&T (also known as Mountain Bell and US West), with the last 20 years in various upper management positions. Most recently, Reilly coordinated new software testing and installation in a 14-state region and supervised between 35 and 50 other managers.

In light of their qualifications, and when asked about the call for all the planning commissioner resignations, Bellis said, “The decision is no reflection on any individual or their commitment of time.”

Bellis also acknowledged the attendance figures listed in his report did not factor in the group’s weekly work sessions during the last year.

“It was never an agenda of ours,” said Archuleta County Commissioner Clifford Lucero. “We wanted to restructure. We wanted to change the direction going forward. When I read the report, I said, ‘maybe we need to make the change.’ But that’s why we asked for people to reapply, because we recognized there were good people on the commission.”

When asked to explain why the board requested resignations from all the planning commissioners, Archuleta County Commissioner Bob Moomaw said, “This the first step down the road of restructuring the planning commission and restructuring how we do business.”

To that end, Bev Warburton, speaking for the League of Women Voters, took issue with how the board did its business, and said the board’s actions regarding the resignations, “didn’t meet the public process.”

“I think there are many in the public that are disturbed,” Warburton said.

Public disturbances aside, the board remained steadfast in their commitment to seek the resignations; yet, as of Tuesday, only three had formerly stepped down.

Furthermore, much of the impetus for the resignation request was predicated on the possibility of a town-county planning and building merger. However, and according to county staff and elected officials, a joint meeting to fine tune merger details, scheduled yesterday, was postponed, ostensibly to give the town more time for internal discussions.

Archuleta County Commissioner John Ranson said, despite the tenuous state of the town-county merger, it was time for a change on the county planning commission.

“The decision was not made solely on joining the town,” Ranson said.

Various members of the town council have been reluctant supporters of the merger idea, and all have said they would refrain from wholehearted support until they could analyze the details of how a merger might look financially, and from a personnel perspective.

However, Bellis said, “Never once did anyone on the town council say it is dead.”

According to Bellis, three planning commissioners should have been removed due to attendance problems and another three’s terms were set to expire in June. The remaining commissioner, Bellis said, had expressed reluctance to serve should a merger go through.

Near the close of the session, Allison asked the board to reconsider their decisions.

“I encourage you to hold your vote today and hold the staff accountable for the information they provide you,” Allison said.

Despite Allison’s request, the board approved the restructuring and continues to seek applications for a new commission.