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Discontent drapes the season

Winter is past and spring brings a season of discontent.

The emotional distress level in Pagosa Country is at one of its cyclical high points. Plenty of folks are upset about plenty of things — some real, some imagined, some manufactured by people with a need for attention.

There is stress over the possible operation of a Wal-Mart. Some residents oppose the big box, others approve. The only thing that will stop Wal-Mart is Wal-Mart. If profit is not probable, the move is not possible.

Others storm over a political structure in the county that allows residents of Pagosa Springs to vote on matters concerning their municipality, without voter input from those living in unincorporated areas. Two attempts to create county Home Rule failed in the past. We wish people luck crafting a successful campaign.

Other folks steam about town government, urging recalls and firings. Town government has certainly had its failings of late. That more success should be expected can’t be denied.

We join the ranks of the discontented when it comes to most of the plans for Reservoir Hill. We join those who say, “No ski lifts, no zip lines, no alpine coasters, no hot air balloons.” We have long advocated an improved festival site and road, if not an amphitheater on the hill. The salesmen of the amusement park amenities on the hill say the circus is necessary, that it must “cash flow” for any improvement to the festival site to be made. Our response is, “No, they are not necessary. What is necessary is patience and effective money management. The site will eventually ‘cash flow’ itself.”

Then, there are those who criticize what they call the “bridge to nowhere” — a proposed vehicle bridge at 5th Street, connecting U.S. 160 with potential development on land between The Bank of the San Juans and the community center.

Here, we disagree with the discontented.

The bridge is a mere plan, but put into a long-range context, a necessary consideration. The land is the only major parcel available for mixed commercial/residential development downtown. If the downtown is to survive, projects on that land are key and could, someday, gradually, provide an economic anchor for downtown Pagosa Springs.

Those naive about development adjacent to highways fail to realize how critical the Colorado Department of Transportation is to the process. Should significant development of the land take place, CDOT will not recognize the current Hot Springs Boulevard/U.S. 160 intersection as sufficient. To think a route down South 8th Street, to Apache, back to Hot Springs is effective, or desirable to the residents of South Pagosa, is off base.

The bridge on 5th Street would do the trick.

The question: Who pays for it?

The town cannot pay for the bridge. CDOT won’t.

The town charter requires that development bear most the cost of street-related improvements. That includes bridges. If this is the case, or if this is what the town council determines, how can it be done?

Creation of a downtown business development district, with grant monies and loan opportunities as part of the deal? Could loans be repaid incrementally, as lots or parts of the parcel are developed?

An answer waits.

Councilors must look past the current discontent and the turmoil and see the possibilities 10, 15, 25 years down the line. In the meantime, town administration should drop support of amusement parks, work on basic infrastructure and ensure that developers — whether it be Wal-Mart or the builders of new hotels, homes, offices, stores and restaurants — cleave to all the rules and regulations on the books.

Karl Isberg

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