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BoCC to decide on Village endorsement

A decision on whether or not to endorse a congressionally-approved land exchange for the proposed Village at Wolf Creek is slated to be made at the Dec. 8 meeting of the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners.

The meeting, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 8 in the commissioners’ meeting room in the county courthouse, is the regular monthly meeting.

The BoCC will allow additional time for public comment on the matter during the meeting.

The BoCC then hopes to meet with Pagosa Springs Town Council on Dec. 10 to discuss drafting a joint letter but, as of Wednesday, no time was set.

“We very much want to work cooperatively with the town on this,” Commissioner Bob Moomaw said.

The town was set to decide on the Village land exchange on Dec. 1, but postponed the item to meet with the county first and possibly factor in recently-obtained information from the county (see related article on Page 1).

The information comes from a neutral law firm hired in November by the county.

In an effort to help the BoCC make a decision on the land swap, the county hired a third-party, nonaffiliated law firm to help the BoCC better understand the legal side of the land exchange proposed in the most recent Village plan.

“It’s the desire of the BoCC to have information at its disposal as to the legal aspects of the environmental process at Wolf Creek in order for them to make an informed decision on whether they support the land swap or not,” County Administrator Greg Schulte said about the hiring.

Rebecca Almon, head of the Environmental, Energy and Natural Resources group at Ireland Stapleton Pryor and Pascoe, PC, a Denver firm, was the lawyer employed to help with the decision, said County Attorney Todd Starr.

Starr estimated the cost for the service in November at “less than $10,000 and more than $5,000.”

It is unclear whether or not the BoCC will share those findings with the town council or members of the public, Moomaw said, citing attorney-client privilege.

Moomaw indicated it would take a vote from the commissioners to be able to release the information.

Other area governments have already moved forward with letters to U.S. Rep. John Salazar in support of the controversial swap.

In a letter dated Oct. 27, the Monte Vista City Council signalled its support for the land exchange, noting that the decision to support was unanimous.

Earlier, in a letter dated Oct. 13, the Rio Grande County Board of County Commissioners backed the land exchange, writing, “We have received numerous of letters of support from residents within our county in support of this land exchange including support from residents who were opposed to the originally proposed development.”

Both letters cited alleviation of wetland issues, public recreation and economic development as reasons for backing the plan.

The Archuleta County Democrats drafted a resolution dated Nov. 19 in which they encourage the BoCC and town council to oppose the congressional land exchange.

The resolution also encourages a “publicly transparent administrative land exchange process, overseen by the Rio Grande National Forest.”

The new, smaller Village plan proposes an exchange with the U.S. Forest Service of 207 acres of Village-owned land around Alberta Park and the lower half of the waterfall area, an area of wetlands and skiable terrain, for 207 acres northeast of Alberta Park with U.S. 160 frontage.

Further, the development plan calls for 492 units in phase one with growth tied to the capacity of the ski area, meaning if the ski area does not expand, the Village development would remain at its initial size.

There are currently eight additional phases in the conceptual design tied to ski area growth.

The 492 units proposed for phase one include a smaller hotel, condo and townhome units, single family units and 50,000 square feet of commercial space, all centered around a pedestrian village.