Read the first part
Most of the talk at Thursday night’s Pagosa Springs City Council meeting — the final meetings of council member Nicole Pitcher and Mayor Don Volger — was friendly and somewhat superficial.
As a member of the audience, the only irritating event of the evening was the Council’s decision to go into executive session to discuss a $3 million proposal to purchase vacant land just outside east and next to the stagnant Mountain Crossing subdivision. …a development approved many years ago, but which has shown little evidence of actual development.
One piece of evidence has surfaced, however, in the recent paving of Mill Creek Road by property owners along the southern boundary of the proposed subdivision. The paving project is complete and on Thursday the City accepted the section of street as a public amenity, which means the City will now clear snow and perform road maintenance, going forward.
During the 15 minutes I was taking photos of the new sidewalk and surrounding neighborhood, only one vehicle passed me.
But the street was converted from a dirt road to a three-lane street, with a center turning lane. Apparently someone is waiting for a parcel traffic on this street one day. As far as I know, only three other street segments in the city have a center turn lane: one block of Hot Springs Boulevard, one block of Pinon Causeway, and one block of North Pagosa Boulevard.
At the eastern end of New Street, near where the road becomes dirt again, is the Strohecker asphalt plant. Typically, the City of Pagosa Springs uses Strohecker for its paving projects. The street in front of the site is, of course, paved.
One of the last statements made by Council member Nicole Pitcher, at her last meeting, was a recommendation to go into executive session to discuss the $3 million project, effectively closing the doors to the public.
Although this land purchase project has been under discussion for several months at the town hall, the public is unaware of almost all the details. The lack of transparency continued Thursday evening.
But that wasn’t Ms. Pitcher’s very last statement. His last comments were delivered after the executive session.
Here are some of those comments, the first of which was addressed to Mayor Volger.
“I think you’ve set a tone at the Council that’s been so welcoming to conflicting ideas, to different personalities, and it’s created a culture that’s so…not what you hear in the news, and not what is happening nationally. It’s a culture of respect for others and their ideas. So I’m very grateful for your leadership…
“You know, I feel like I’ve grown a lot [during the past six years]. I got married, I had a baby. Not necessarily in that order, but…”
Laughter from the room.
“I changed careers twice…I feel like when I started on the Council I was in my late twenties, and I was much older…I became more humble, looking at our decisions unfold over time. I certainly support what we’re doing… You know, obviously I was part of the housing issue, and I supported it…
“But I just have to get that off my chest. I have this nagging concern that… you know, when you think about the role of government, and whenever we interfere with anything, the unintended consequences of our actions. And I thought, many times, if we didn’t do something [about the housing issue], eventually Pagosa would be a less desirable place to live. We won’t have employees, we won’t have services, we won’t have diversity of people.
“Eventually ‘the market’ would work out, but Pagosa wouldn’t… it wouldn’t be as nice. Because we won’t have services. Obviously that would be a painful and long-term ‘fix’. However, if we continue to build housing… while we [support workforce housing]I fear that we are artificially supporting these increases [real estate values]…
“…When I think of growth, and I think of Pagosa, there’s always this discord, between keeping the little mountain town authentically refreshing, but also, people wanting to move here. And we are growing. So it’s like – what can you actually control?
“And it seems to me that a very important part of the culture, and why I like living here, is the respect that we have, when we treat each other…like, I’m not just gonna know you for the rest of my life; I will know your children, and your children will know my children. And I think the fabric is what creates one of the things I love most about living in this small town…that it’s not an isolated event. It’s all part of our larger story, and our lives will always be connected.
“One thing I’ve always loved about Pagosa…that we’re not red versus blue, in those simplistic ways…we’re our own thing…and I implore our community to remember that and be” bigger “than the ugliness you see in national politics…”
The seven people who currently serve on the city council have not dug the economic hole that Pagosa Springs currently finds itself in. The housing crisis and the borderline misery in which some local families have collapsed…the topographical tyranny of 50 years of sprawling development…the selling of our souls to the tourist industry…real estate industry active with the same objective, prices of higher and higher…
… Many government and business decisions, and their “unintended consequences,” took place long before Ms. Pitcher and her colleagues stepped in to take seats on the Council dais.
Some questions for city council members in 2022 might be:
“Should we sit back and let ‘the market’ take care of our problems?
“Should we act like we know how to be developers and risk millions of taxpayer dollars in a risky business east of town?
“Should we conduct public affairs behind closed doors… or should we bet on transparency?
Read part three, tomorrow…
Bill Hudson began to share his opinions in the Pagosa Daily Post in 2004 and cannot break this habit. He says that in Pagosa Springs, notices are like vans: everyone has one.