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County to purchase 95-acre parcel

Archuleta County is in the process of purchasing 95.8 acres south of Pagosa Springs on U.S. 84 for an as-yet undetermined use.

The property is located at 668 U.S. 84, between the fairgrounds and county road and bridge facility — the former Blue Sky Village development site that went into foreclosure earlier this year, the note held by Alpine Bank.

According to a presentation regarding the property acquisition at Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners’ meeting by Greg Schulte, the property was appraised in January with a market value “as is” in March of $1.2 million, or $12,526 per acre. The value was determined by Denver-based Commercial Valuation Consultants.

The property also includes 18 C-shares of water rights in the Park Ditch Company.

The purchase price on the property is $745,000 ($7,776 per acre) and the closing is anticipated to take place on Dec. 28.

In presenting information about the acquisition Tuesday, Schulte called the purchase a “very pivotal juncture for the county,” adding later, “This represents a very timely and strategic investment.”

In a special meeting Wednesday, the BoCC approved the purchase of the property and the accompanying financing agreement.

To purchase the property, county staff is refinancing existing debt obligated to the county in 2009 that is used for capital equipment leases and road improvements. The debt is currently serviced through Road Capital Improvement funds in the Road and Bridge Fund.

The debt is currently for $4.6 million with an interest rate of 5.7 percent and an annual debt service of about $484,000. The current lease matures in 2023.

The proposed refinancing terms finance $5.3 million through lowering the interest rate on the loan to 5.4 percent, lowering the amount paid through the RCI. The portion of the loan for the purchase of the property will be paid from the county’s Conservation Trust Fund in the amount of $70,000 per year.

The Conservation Trust Fund provides revenues from state lottery proceeds. The county receives about $100,000 yearly, $30,000 of which is allocated to the Town of Pagosa Springs for parks and recreation purposes.

The fund has a balance of about $350,000.

The refinancing, combined with a lease maturity date of 2026, places the county’s annual debt service on the lease/purchase at just under $483,000 between the two funds.

Though unknown right now, Schulte said the use for the property will be determined through a master planning process he hopes will begin with the new year.

Schulte said in a Wednesday interview that money to fund a master plan is available either through the Conservation Trust Fund or 1A Parks and Recreation funding.

Despite the unknowns, Schulte outlined potential uses for the property Tuesday, including new county facilities, sports fields, a multiuse event center and perhaps separating parcels, mainly those that front U.S. 84, to be used for commercial activity.

The property currently contains a ranch house, barn and outbuilding, with current tenants who are on a month-to-month basis.

Schulte said in Wednesday’s interview that the current tenants of the house have been informed that the county does not “intend to be in a long-term landlord relationship.” However, for the time being — until the county has determined a use for the property — Schulte said the county will continue the relationship with the tenant.

The master plan will also indicate what the county should do with the water rights.

If the water is not needed for use of the property, the county could sell the shares, Schulte said.

During Tuesday’s presentation, Schulte explained that the proposal was brought forth to the BoCC during a Dec. 6 executive session; however, after the Tuesday meeting, BoCC chair Clifford Lucero said the idea had been brought to Schulte and Commissioner Bob Moomaw, discussed briefly at a long-range planning work session, and discussed during the executive session.

Following the executive session, county staff continued looking into the idea.

At Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners John Ranson and Lucero admitted to not favoring the idea initially, but spoke of changing their minds.

Ranson said that, although the current BoCC board may not see the benefits of the land purchase, he was glad the BoCC was “finally able to do some long-term planning” and thanked Moomaw for his perseverance in pursuing the purchase.

“I really like it,” Ranson said.

Lucero, too, admitted to initially disliking the idea, but noted he felt it was a “10-year moment” — a decision that, in 10 years, would be looked upon as a moment of definitive change in the county.

“I think we’re doing the right thing here,” Lucero said.

“I just think this is a great opportunity we need to take advantage of,” Moomaw said.

randi@pagosasun.com