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Town to consider vested rights for potential development

Looking at a potential development in an area west and south of the Springs Resort, the Pagosa Springs planning commission decided Tuesday to grant vested rights for 10 years to potential developers of that property.

Vested rights extend time limits on proposed developments, assuring developers that a municipality won’t affect changes in regulations or agreements to the detriment of the proposed development. Colorado statute allows for vested rights, suggesting a three-year period. However, under its Home Rule charter, the town can extend the time period for vesting rights.

Essentially, any new building or zoning codes, restrictions or qualifications passed by the town would not apply to any development having been awarded vested rights prior to changes in those codes or zoning.

In 2008, the Pagosa Springs Town Council gave BootJack Management five-year vested rights on several of its downtown properties, extending those rights out to eight years. The town further extended its privilege when it awarded 20-year vested rights to the Mountain Crossings development later that year. A month later, it again granted 20-year vested rights, this time to the Blue Sky Village development.

A 2009 proposal of 20-year vested rights for the proposed Reservoir River Ranch development fell through after developers rejected annexation by the town.

Since then, the town has not awarded vested rights, mostly due to the fact that no new development proposals have been submitted to the town’s planning department. Likewise, no development has taken place on properties that secured vested rights from the town.

Presenting the proposal for vested rights to the commission, Town Planner James Dickhoff stated that the proposed development would include residential, commercial and mixed-use development, as well as proposals for new hotels.

Dickhoff and project representative Courtney King (from Reynolds and Associates) presented two versions of project sketch plans, one including a bridge crossing the river from the South Fifth Street terminus.

It was the proposal for additional lodging — over 200 new rooms according to the sketch plan — that Dickhoff appeared to hinge his argument on when presenting to the commission.

However, in a report released last year by the Town Tourism Commission, presented as justification for building recreational amenities on Reservoir Hill, it was claimed that out of over 244,000 “room-nights” available annually, only about 80,000 of those “room-nights” are used each year.

If the development presented on Tuesday night realizes full build-out, new lodging would add over 80,000 “room-nights” into that equation.

Dickhoff did not respond to questions regarding existing vacant commercial space in the downtown core, but did appeal to the commission on the basis of the development’s potential for adding a substantial number of commercial spaces to the downtown area.

Seemingly swayed by Dickhoff’s appeal for awarding vested rights to the development, the commission voted unanimously to award those rights.

The next step is to take the commission’s recommendation for final approval of those rights.

Town council will most likely consider the 10-year vested rights during its March 22 mid-month meeting. That issue would likely be presented as a first reading of an ordinance granting those rights, with a second reading considered at the April 4 council meeting.

Town council meets at noon, March 22, in town hall.

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