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GGP receives leases for greenhouse project

With the second reading of Ordinance 769 during the May 1 meeting of the Pagosa Springs Town Council, the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) was provided with leases for land and geothermal water that had been previously held by the Southwest Land Alliance (SLA), providing the group with further leverage in its pursuit of grant money.

Approval to port those leases followed council’s approval on first reading of Ordinance 770, which not only allocates $5,000 in earnest money for properties along South 5th and 6th streets, but provided a Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) River Corridors Initiative Grant is awarded in mid-June, will give the go-ahead to purchase those properties.

Ordinance 769 essentially allows the GGP to move forward with a project that has been on the drawing board for nearly four years: Placing three geothermally-heated growing domes in Centennial Park. Those domes would include an educational dome, a commercial agriculture dome and a community gardening dome.

Although a smaller visitor center and information dome has been discussed for the project, it remains to be seen if plans for that dome will be finalized any time soon.

Almost from its inception, the GGP had handed fiscal agency for the project over to the SLA due to that organization’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, with the idea that, as the GGP’s fiscal agent, the SLA would better help the project secure funding from various government grants.

Earlier this year, the GGP filed for its own 501(c)(3) status and the SLA asked the town last month to be released from leases (granted in early 2010) and to turn those leases over to the GGP.

Both leases are for seven years at $10 per year with the option to renew that lease, in five-year increments, after 2019.

Stipulated in those leases are performance benchmarks that state the town can terminate the lease if no progress has been made on the project within three years of executing the lease.

With passage of the second reading of Ordinance 769 by council, the GGP can now proceed with its project. With a recently-awarded $25,000 grant and awaiting word on another $50,000 grant from a local nationally-owned bank, the GGP hopes to have its first dome in the ground,“before the end of the construction season” this year.

Furthermore, that project was recently relocated from land in Centennial Park that had originally been designated for the domes to a site farther east in the park to make room for a proposed motor traffic bridge at the terminus on the south end of 5th Street and crossing the San Juan River to a point just up stream from the 6th Street bend.

In January, the town alerted the GGP that it would be considering that bridge sometime in the next five years and that the original site plan for the domes occupied a portion of the bridge right of way. Asking the GGP to be flexible with its plans, the town proposed changing the lease and site.

Although the new site is almost an acre smaller than the original site, the GGP assured council in April that the smaller footprint would still accommodate full build-out of the project.

If the project goes to full build-out, the gazebo in Centennial Park will have to be relocated to another section of the park.

Prior to finalizing leases with the GGP, council passed the first reading of Ordinance 770 that not only allocates earnest money on property the town is eyeing for its river restoration project, but commits to the purchase of those properties if GOCO grant funds are awarded (that grant would pay the majority of the note on those properties).

The properties are aligned on 5th and 6th streets and would provide various uses for that project, including additional parking, picnic tables and restrooms, as well as greater latitude for walkways and a location for informational and orientation signage.

The 6th Street property is 1.2 acres and valued at $190,000, with the 5th Street property valued at $150,000 for 0.8 acres. The properties in question had been previously owned by developer David Brown, were sold to a California developer last summer, then transferred to a Texas investment group last fall.

Should the town not win its grant request and therefore be unable to afford to purchase the two properties, the earnest money would not be refunded.

As reported in the April 19 edition of The SUN, that property acquisition had been discussed by council with the board directing town staff to draft an ordinance for the property deal and the allocation of funds for earnest money.

At that time, the earnest money required was $17,000, or 5 percent of the total asking price for both properties. That had been negotiated down from 10 percent by Town Planner James Dickhoff before the April meeting. Prior to the May meeting, Dickhoff succeeded in negotiating that down to $5,000.

If a GOCO grant is awarded to the town (amounting to about $6 million) on June 15, the town would have until June 20 to inform property owners of an intention to purchase the land or risk losing the earnest money. At that point, the town would pay another $29,000 for a promissory note, holding the property until either closing or Aug. 20 (whichever comes first), when the town would be responsible for paying the balance on the two properties.

Council will hear the second reading of Ordinance 770 during the mid-month meeting at noon, May 17, at Town Hall.

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