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To collect, or not collect ... that is the question

Approving a second reading of an ordinance to waive impact fees and fees-in-lieu on Tuesday night, the Pagosa Springs Town Council agreed to provide some economic relief for local developers, but could not agree how the ordinance would affect fee collection agreements with the school and fire protection districts.

“As of today,” said Town Manager David Mitchem, “We’ve received a request for a commercial renovation downtown worth about $250,000. When asked why they were doing this now, they responded that it was because of this fee waiver.”

Despite the anecdotal evidence that fee waivers were working to boost local development, Mitchem was nevertheless uncertain how waiving fees would affect the collection of school and fire protection district fees.

“I have had conversations with the school and fire protection districts and we’ll have more formal discussions with the school and fire protection districts and ask them to come join us in waiving fees,” Mitchem said.

It remains unclear, however, if the school and fire protection districts will agree to waiving their fees. With approval of the second reading, the town appears to have sidestepped agreements and obligations for the collection of those district’s fees.

Council member Shari Pierce expressed concern regarding how the proposed fee waivers would affect those agreements with the districts, as spelled out in the language of the ordinance.

“Even if you talked to the school and fire protection district, they still haven’t agreed to that (fee waivers), but it says in the ordinance that we won’t collect that (district fees).”

Pierce’s point was essentially that both districts would be left without a mechanism for collecting levies designated in the town’s impact fees. Since the districts do not have statutory authority to collect their fees, the town would effectively dictate that both districts waive fees, no matter what those districts decide.

“I just want the town to be a good partner,” Pierce added.

Council member Stan Holt saw the matter in a different way, however, and said, “The way I read this, we’re not collecting town fees, but we’re still collecting fire protection and school fees.”

In fact, although language of the ordinance does suggest that impact fees could still be collected for the school district, it does not stipulate the collection of impact fees for the fire protection district.

With the matter of fee collection for the two districts not resolved, council voted to pass the measure with only Pierce opposing.

Another proposed economic development measure — the ”portfolio of incentives” presented by Mitchem at a July 30 council work session — was struck from the agenda, at Mitchem’s request, for “further discussion at a work session or the mid-month meeting.”

With little discussion, council unanimously passed an Intergovernmental Agreement with the county regarding the collection of town road mills and likewise unanimously passed a budget allocation for repairing brick work outside of Town Hall.

In department head reports, town Building Inspector James Dickhoff reported that planning commission chair Tracy Bunning would resign effective Aug. 11 (following the next commission meeting) and that the town would accept letters of interest for Bunning’s position, as well as openings for one regular member and two alternate positions on the commission. Dickhoff also reported that, given the current stagnant construction environment in the town, the commission will eliminate a second monthly meeting, convening only on the second Tuesday of each month.

Presenting for the Town Tourism Committee, TTC Coordinator Jennie Green reported that June lodger’s tax receipts showed a 12-percent increase over the same month last year and that lodger’s tax receipts were up 6.5 percent over last year. Green also reported that visitor packet fulfillment requests for June were up an astounding 288 percent from the same month last year, while July requests were up 264 percent. In July, the top five states requesting visitor’s packets were (in order of most packets requested), California, Texas, Colorado, Arizona and Florida, with the top five states representing 44 percent of all fulfillment requests in 2009.

Building Official Scott Pierce, presenting the Building Department’s report, gave details on a “one-stop-shop” process developed with the Joint Utilities Committee (JUC). The process developed would require a builder or developer to submit three plans to the building department, rather than seven plans that had been previously required.

Wondering if three plans would be sufficient for expediting the review process, council member Darrel Cotton said, “If we’re going to fast-track plans, we’d better be prepared to fast-track them, if that’s what we say we’re going to do.”

However, Pierce responded that the joint review process with the JUC had been developed with a fast track in mind and that plans would be monitored closely as they travelled through the hands of the various agencies involved.

Council will hold its mid-month meeting at noon Aug. 20 at Town Hall.

jim@pagosasun.com