The request by local contractor Peter Adams for the Town of Pagosa Springs to give up its right of way (ROW) for the 6th/7th alley north of Navajo Street between his two properties will be discussed today at noon in the council chambers at Town Hall.
Adams owns a strip of property between 6th Street and the shale cliff. He also owns more than half of the lots on the east side of 7th Street between Navajo and Piedra streets, on the top of the shale cliff. The town retains a ROW between those two properties.
Although the terrain would make construction of an alley nearly impossible in that area, and the strip of land remains undeveloped to this day, the town’s ROW could be retained for other future uses, Town Planner James Dickhoff explained last April when the matter first came before the planning commission. However, if the town vacates its ROW, Adams’ plans are to develop the area into private residences.
Although Adams is a member of the planning commission and it would be a conflict of interest for him to be involved in his own case, he did send an email to Dickhoff, which was passed along to the other commissioners.
“The alley in it’s (sic) current location will prevent me from getting to the crest of the hill to take advantage of the view,” Adams wrote. “As I consider developing this property it is simple economics. If I can utilize the views the nature of the housing I can provide will change dramatically. A more up scale experience with views of the river,town (sic) and mountains.
“Without this option I would be forced to build lower income housing close to So. 7th. The rear yards would be a steep hill with none of the amenities mentioned above. This kind of construction is not my style and I would be reluctant to put my sign out front.”
On July 31, The SUN published an article explaining the situation and pointing out, in particular, how the public hearing process may have been circumvented.
While the end result may or may not have been intentional, the following outlines the chain of events:
- Adams submitted his original application in March, calling for a vacation of ROW for the entire alley, as well as a portion of the Navajo Street ROW.
- Shortly before the April planning commission meeting, Adams amended the scope of his application, requesting that only the portion of the ROW adjacent to his properties be vacated instead of the entire alley.
- A number of concerned citizens showed up at the April planning commission meeting to express their opinions.
- The planning commission decided to table the matter and asked Adams to submit an entirely new application reflecting the change of scope.
- Later, at the July 29 planning commission meeting, when this second application was discussed and ultimately approved for recommendation to town council, none of the citizens from the original meeting were present and none of their comments were taken under consideration.
In a letter to the editor published in The SUN on Aug. 7, Greg Giehl explained, “The April 29 planning commission meeting, at which Peter Adams requested vacating the town right of way, overlooking the river, was properly noticed and attended by many of my neighbors, including Franklin Anderson a true native of the neighborhood. Peter Adams, for whatever reason, changed the scope of his request and the planning commission tabled the issue for further research into the issue. When the new request was brought back to the planning commission, that meeting was not properly noticed and that is why no one in the neighborhood attended said meeting.”
In an interview with SUN staff before the Aug. 12 planning commission meeting, Dickhoff responded, “We did have a sign up there. Now, I haven’t gone back up there to check it, but I did see Greg’s comment in the editorial section of the paper, so I will go up there. We have sometimes lost signs during storm events — wind— or vandalism, sometimes.”
Dickhoff reiterated that a legal notice was printed in The SUN before the meeting and individual letters were mailed to all neighbors within 300 feet of the property.
“That being said,” Dickhoff concluded, “we’ve got a pending compliance violation with the person that wrote that editorial (letter to the editor), so he has a beef with us and I don’t know if all of that is factually correct.”
Adams also wrote a letter to the editor in the Aug. 7 edition of The SUN, claiming that an “overwhelming majority” of the comments at the original meeting were in favor of the ROW vacation. He failed to explain how he knew this, considering he had recused himself from the meeting and had left the room to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. Nor does he explain why those comments were not mentioned at the second meeting, when his application was finally recommended for approval.
Adams’ letter also complained about how the location of the alley was described in the previous week’s article. “Mr. Fincher states that the alley ‘runs the full length of the ridge above the cliff’ which is totally inaccurate. In fact if you walk the alley to be vacated which is stacked (sic) out and, anyone interested may do so, you will notice the alley is well below the ridge and the views of the river and town are for the most part obstructed by the ridge.”
Adams also took issue with the notion that he is using the 6th Street ROW as a “concession” for approving his application.
However, the planning commission’s official recommendation to town council states, “APPROVE the vacation of the 6th/7th Alley Public Right-of-Way between Navajo Street and the NE corner of lot 8X with the additional recommendation that Town Council move forward with the property owner to obtain a formalized agreement of property for the 6th Street road right-of-way from the cliff area down to 6th Street.”
The background information Dickhoff included in town council’s agenda packet for today’s meeting states, “South 6th Street is outside of the platted 6th Street ROW, and instead follows the river curve, through the applicants (sic) property. The Applicant has stated he will work with the Town to formalize the 6th Street ROW, where the actual road exists. The Town currently has a Prescriptive Right (Easement) for the S. 6th Street alignment, however, this is very limiting on what can occur along this portion of 6th Street. Formalizing the 6th Street ROW will ensure the Town can fully utilize the ROW for all utilities, roadway improvements, future sidewalks/trails, etc.”
While Adams’ letter argued the ROW was not at the top of the ridge and would not be a good location for a public trail, it failed to explain what he would do with the ridge if he owned all of the property outright.
Dickhoff’s background materials for today’s town council meeting admit, “The applicant has not created development plans as of yet, as he prefers a determination on the possibility of vacating the Alley, prior to incurring the expense associated with creating development and design plans for submitting an application to the town.”