This is an update on the first forum on the Valley Floor proposal, which was held on Tuesday the 10th during the Town Council meeting. The following are the major questions raised by participants and the answers that were given by Jerry Dahl, the town's special counsel, council members and town staff related to the Valley Floor ballot initiative the town's voters will be voting on this upcoming February 14th.
1. Why has there been such a rush to get this ballot issue in front of the electorate?
The time schedule is tight. The stay on the condemnation ends on September 14th of this year. At that point if we have not completed the Annexation Agreement, the Site Specific Development Plans, the Conservation Easement and the Ordinance, we shift back into final preparation and fund raising for the condemnation valuation hearing which is scheduled for February 5, 2007. In order to accomplish this, the Town Council needed the voter's support of the ballot issues that were approved roughly a week ago. We will be left with approximately seven months to accomplish tasks which could normally take over two years.
2. Will SMVC be required to go through the Town's normal P&Z process related to dealing with potential commercial development at Society Turn?
Yes, but until there is a definite plan in place for the specific type of development there is no way any decisions can be made. There was also a concern about house size on the south side of the Valley Floor. It was pointed out that in fact there are several homes that had been approved in the town that actually exceed 7,500 square feet. Those developers also had to live within the Town's Land Use process. Telluride has excellent annexation and land use codes dealing with the issues of concern.
3. Will there be a golf course built on the Valley Floor and [what about] the access points from the development areas involved in all four land parcels will create traffic problems? "Growth doesn't pay its own way," was a statement mentioned as well.
The ballot issue uses the exact same language to describe permitted uses found in the Sheep Mountain Alliance ordinance, which began condemnation proceedings. There will be no golf course allowed on the Valley Floor. In addition, the access points would be basically the same whether or not there was development on the Valley Floor, since the condemnation proceedings only dealt with the South Side. Access to the South Side would still be required for parking, camping, nordic and other public uses whether or not there is development. The other three parcels, not under condemnation, would have their normal access points for development that would occur. While growth typically doesn't pay its own way, in this situation by not having to pay an undecided amount of money, but by some estimates $40,000,000 for condemnation, the annexation agreement would be substantially less costly for the Town than condemnation. Infrastructure costs to the Town were discussed. They would be nominal as the developer must provide roads and utility hook-ups to our existing systems. There might be some minimal costs but we must know the final plans first.
4. Who came up with the $15,000,000 for restoration of the Valley Floor and was it legally required?
The $15,000,000 was a number decided upon through negotiation. It deals only with the area in the Conservation Easement. Since there is no detailed plan in place, the Town Council felt this needed to be taken care of regardless of condemnation or annexation. The reasoning was: restoring the river is a challenging project that may require relocating power lines and sewer lines. Developing the actual restoration plan will go through an extensive process and will require input from SMVC. Wetland enhancements and reclamation of the old sewer lines also need to be considered. It was not a legal requirement; rather it was an ethical requirement the Town felt the need to perform. There will be a forum focused solely on River Restoration where an expert on the topic will discuss the typical costs entailed in a restoration process. The San Miguel Watershed Coalition did a survey of the San Miguel River. The number one area in need of environmental restoration was the Valley Floor. The landowner (SMVC) is required to resolve any known contamination issues. The Town, even if it finds environmental concerns yet unknown, does not hold the responsibility for resolving those issues. The purpose of the restoration is to provide a healthier wetland and river environment and to enhance public use and access. This access would only occur if condemnation were to be successful or if the ballot measures were to pass and an annexation agreement were enacted.
5. There is nothing stating the 22 homes would be developed in a cluster…that in fact, they could be spread over the entire south side. What is private open space?
In fact the ballot states…22 homes on a parcel (not multiple parcels) within 47 acres located to the south of the existing Texaco station and east of the Cottonwoods. The only way development would be spread over the entire 560 acres is through the one home per 35-acre development plan SMVC presented earlier to the County. That plan would not allow public access. Private open space is private from a use perspective, but the benefits to the public are less development. Private open space would occur in spot locations on the south within the 47-acre development pod, on the north and the airport parcel. In addition, there would be public open space on all the annexed areas except the airport lots.
6. Talk about the P&Z process, the possibility of purchasing the 47 acres on the south side and placing them in a conservation easement and HARC involvement.
SMVC would go through the P&Z process. No purchase of the 47 acres could take place until the developer actually had development entitlements on the 47 acres vested to them. Then if there were individuals who were interested in accomplishing this, they would need to meet with the developer. HARC would not be involved, but once a plan has been put in place by the developer it would be reviewed. This plan would be documented in the Annexation Agreement and Site Specific Development Plans.
7. Why are we having forums in the daytime, which doesn't allow for public participation and why were meetings and forums called on short notice?
There are four forums plan-ned, two in the day and two in the evening. Proper notice was given for each meeting and forum, and the last two meetings were filled with interested citizens.
I have probably missed some questions and hopefully the papers will catch them. While I understand the angst that change brings about, the overriding purpose of the ballot question is to allow the citizens of Telluride to speak out for a different option for the Valley Floor than condemnation. The ballot on February 14th is there to offer this option. If passed, it will allow the Council to proceed to craft a negotiated and detailed Annexation Agreement, Site Specific Development Plan for the parcels and a Conservation Easement. Once the agreements and plans have gone through a thorough public process they will be approved by an ordinance with two readings. There will then be a 30-day period for the public to respond or, if it wished, to initiate a referendum on the ordinance. If the public voted against the plans then they would not exist. It is our hope the public will continue to attend or listen to the forums, raise more questions and end up supporting the ballot issue. Your council has worked very diligently to bring this question to you, and we support unanimously your right to vote for our further involvement in crafting the plans, which will decide the final and largest most developable area in the region. The next forum is January 24th at Rebekah Hall from 7-9 p.m. where we will be discussing Conservation Easements. Please, plan on being there.
Finally, think of the Essential Elements as being the framing for a house, the next step will allow us to finalize the interior of that house with the myriad of details to be worked out. The agreements and site specific development plans are the final finishes on the house. Let's build it together.