By: Randi Pierce, Pagosa Springs Sun
November 15, 2012
Archuleta County is speaking out against portions of the Village at Wolf Creek Project Draft Environment Impact Statement involving an analysis of the project’s socioeconomic impacts, calling the analysis inadequate.
Concerns over the socioeconomic impact analysis are expressed in a Nov. 8 letter approved by the Board of County Commissioners sent to Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas.
The letter begins by stating, “The general argument or assumption implicit in the Draft EIS that ‘reasonable enjoyment’ of the land by the owner is over 1,500 residential and commercial units, (and therefore, necessitating the land exchange and additional new access), appears to be radically out of alignment with at least two independent appraisals that conclude that the highest and best use/density for the property to be roughly 5 to 7 residential units. This discrepancy is large enough to warrant significant uncertainty about the argument and assumptions in that element of the Draft EIS.
“The EIS seems to mistake the applicant’s desire to build a 1500+ unit ‘town’ with any reasonable interpretation of the standard of ‘reasonable enjoyment’. In fact, many comparable, large, in-holding style properties in the vicinity are ‘reasonably enjoyed’ at a far lower density. This decision will likely set a precedent or expectation for other landowners in raising their threshold for ‘enjoyment’ of their properties.”
The letter continues to acknowledge that the project is outside of Archuleta County, but states, “… the conclusion that can easily be drawn from the Draft EIS is that a large portion of the potential impacts will accrue to our base services in direct proportion to the scale of the development, with no provision in the project plan to offset them or taxing authority to pay for them.”
The letter points out the configuration of counties in the area of the development as the reason Archuleta and Rio Grande counties would be the most affected by the development, despite its being situated in Mineral County.
Concerns in the letter include Archuleta County’s request for the full socioeconomic impact analysis not being provided in a timely manner and only after, “much prodding,” and of the development’s potential impact on services that would be needed as a result of increased population and visitors to the area.
“While the Analysis calculates, in general terms, the number of households, enrollments, etc, we think the Analysis completely misses the salient point as to the correlation between the allocation of on-going costs and provision of services,” the letter states, before providing more information as to possible affects on school enrollment in the three counties.
The letter uses a calculation of 3,659 new students in the three counties, with 1,405 apportioned to Archuleta County, 2,173 to Rio Grande County and 81 to Mineral County.
“We don’t disagree the average number of school children per household is probably lower in Archuleta than Rio Grande in a global sense. But due to the geography, we are of the opinion that the Rio Grande County incorporated cities of Del Norte and Monte Vista would be unlikely places for households to locate due to impacts at the Village at Wolf Creek,” the letter states before delving into school funding and calling into question the consultant’s knowledge of the local geography.
“In addition, the report apparently does not understand the nature of the funding for schools. In Colorado, property taxes are a major source of funding for school districts,” the letter states. “As a consequence, Mineral County receives 100% of the increased valuation for the least impact to the school system and Rio Grande and Archuleta County receive 0% for 98% of the impact (3,578 children of the calculated 3,659). As noted above, we would also argue the Rio Grande share is over-stated due to the unlikelihood of people locating in Del Norte and Monte Vista, thereby even further understating the impact to the Archuleta school district. We wonder why that is not even noted as an impact and question the consultant’s knowledge of our local geography.”
Finally, the letter calls into question the claim that property and sales tax revenues generated by the property are sufficient to cover the increased services that would be made necessary.
“Maybe that is true for Mineral County, but we don’t share that opinion in regards to Archuleta County. We believe there could have been more critical analysis of the on-going impacts to the nearby Counties that are not commensurate with the probable on-going revenue streams the neighboring counties may realize,” the letter states.
Commissioner comments on the topic, though brief, largely centered around personal views on the project, as well as the need for additional information.
While Commissioner Steve Wadley noted that he had not taken a stance either in favor of or opposing the development, he expressed a desire for additional information, saying, “This report was not good information.”
Commissioner Michael Whiting, after stating, “No matter how bad a project it is,” said the board was not taking a stance without additional information.
Commissioner Clifford Lucero stated he has taken a stance against the project at the request of his constituents.
The letter was approved unanimously.
A final draft of the EIS is expected in 2013, at which point the Village project would be subject to Mineral County planning and building processes.