Storage Facility Showdown Set for Mid-July
~ by Bob Volpe ~
Last week’s regular meeting of the WP city council was a long one, filled with presentations, appointments, and ceremonies.
Capping the agenda was filling Jon DeVaux’s seat on the DDA (Downtown Development Authority) board of directors. DeVaux, one of the group’s veteran members, resigned from the DDA last month. This seat could become a pivotal position.
There were three applicants for the position. These included Pete Labarre, a local developer; Nikki Parsons, a small business owner in town; and Nick Pinell, an antique shop owner.
Each applicant gave a brief talk on why they would like to serve on the DDA board.
None of the applicants had a strong knowledge of the workings of the DDA, but each candidate expressed a desire to help the business grow in Woodland Park.
The vote was 5 to 1 to appoint Nick Pinell as the newest member of the DDA board. Hilary LaBarre recused herself from the vote because of her relation to Pete Labarre. Only Mayor Levy voted for LaBarre.
Pinell will have his work cut out for himself, as the DDA is undergoing major changes and financial challenges.
Next up was a presentation by The Girls of the West and the Pikes Peak Range Riders, who offered insight into the upcoming Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo.
After the rodeo presentation, the council paid homage to Municipal Court Judge John T. Bruce on his previously announced retirement. Bruce has served as magistrate for the municipal court in Woodland Park since 1992. Elizabeth McClintock was sworn in to replace Bruce on the bench.
The council also agreed to cancel the June 21 and July 5 council meetings due to the holidays. Council approved the cancellation and set a special meeting of the council for June 28 for regular business.
City Manager Update
City Attorney Erin Smith noted that two of the three finalists for the position of the city manager was in attendance at the meeting. She noted that live interviews of all three applicants would take place on Friday, June 8.
Levy thanked everyone involved in the process and stated, “Hopefully if all goes well, sometime in the next few days, we will be able to tender a contract.”
The new city manager will succeed David Buttery, who served as the city’s top boss for more than 10 years. More than 100 applicants from across the country have sought the position.
Storage Facility Fight Brewing
In other business, the council considered Ordinance 1330 regarding a conditional use permit request by the Woodland Park Saddle Club and the M3XP2 developers. The developers want to construct a big storage facility on the old Saddle Club rodeo grounds on Hwy. 24. This project was the subject of much contention at the May 24 planning commission meeting. Despite concerns of citizens on a variety of issues, the planning commission approved the request.
There was some confusion as to whether Mayor Pro Tem Val Carr and Councilman Paul Saunier should recuse themselves, as they are members of the Saddle Club. Smith read from the city charter that indicated council could allow the council members to stay if they felt no conflict of interest existed.
Mayor Levy chimed in, “I think it is ludicrous that anyone would think these two men have a conflict of interest in this regard. They don’t have any financial interest and so I would hope we can keep them both involved.”
The council allowed the council members to stay by a unanimous vote.
On consideration of the ordinance, Lor Pellegrino, a city planner, presented the details of the ordinance and discussion ensued. After the revelation that a lawsuit involving the Saddle Club is pending, Sawyer suggested the issue be tabled until the suit is settled.
But Pellegrino and Riley noted the suit does not have bearing on the ordinance. Council approved the ordinance to proceed to a public hearing at the July 19 meeting of the council.
The next order of business was a public hearing on the designation of the El Dorado Casino (now Preschool in the Pines) as a historic landmark. (see related story in this week’s TMJ)
Council then approved a request by Merry Jo Larsen and the Ute Pass Saddle Club to allow on-site camping from July 10-16, for the Ute Trail Stampede Rodeo event.
Adjacent property owner Pete Labarre spoke out against the request, citing illegal camping on his property across the highway. Council said they would address the issue through the police department.
In other action, resident James Baker addressed council on speeders creating a safety hazard on Park Street. Baker stated that since the county closed West Valley, traffic has become dangerous on Park Street as people are seeking new shortcuts to avoid traveling on Hwy. 24 to get through town.
Police Chief Miles DeYoung spoke about the issue saying, “Closing West Valley has just shifted the problem to other areas.” DeYoung said the problem is going to be an educational issue that is going to take time to work out. He also noted that additional officers are being embedded in this area to help mitigate the speeding and stop sign running that is going on.
Better behavior needed at council meetings
During council reports, Carr read a draft of a proposal to amend the city charter to include rules of conduct and ethics for the council, both in personal behavior and conduct during council meetings. The draft will be the subject of at least one workshop meeting of the council to fine-tune the proposal.
In recent meetings, the council has encountered many internal disputes that at times have gotten quite ugly. It’s become quite clear that certain elected leaders don’t like each other too much. Some political observers have jokingly referred to the council meetings as the best entertainment in town for a Thursday. In the annual Best Of survey conducted by TMJ News, the council meetings were noted for their array of disputes.