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Thread: Board of County Commissioners asking for all of Planning Commissioners to quit and then be "rehired"

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Off Width's avatar
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    Board of County Commissioners asking for all of Planning Commissioners to quit and then be "rehired"

    I have been following with fascination the stories coming out of Pagosa Springs/Archuleta County, in southwest Colorado.

    Archuleta County is an large, isolated, rural, mountainous county with one incorporated town - Pagosa Springs. Archuleta County is somewhat dysfunctional (burning through staff - a board of commissioners who fought publicly, came close to going bankrupt, etc.)

    The town and the county have been talking about merging the two planning departments and this past week the BOCC asked the County Planning Commissioners to all resign and then reapply if they wanted to. My questions is this - has anyone else out there had this happen in your jurisdiction? How common is this?

    Here is the story:

    http://www.pagosadailypost.com/news/...ned,_Part_One/

    Planning Commission Removed But Not Resigned, Part One

    Glenn Walsh | 1/26/09

    The Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners and Planning Commission met in a joint session Thursday evening. There has been much discussion about the future of the County Planning Commission amongst the BoCC and the Pagosa Springs Town Council recently — but, curiously perhaps, no discussion about these discussions with the Planning Commissioners themselves.

    The handwriting was on the wall, and the Commissioners are not an illiterate group.

    Planning Commissioner Lesli Allison stated her concern clearly. "Let's clear the slate, put everything on the table, find out if the composition of this commission is suitable for you. Let's make sure we are working together with efficiency and cooperation."

    BoCC Chair Bob Moomaw responded with equal clarity and a somewhat mixed message. “We are going to ask for everybody’s resignation. Having said that, we are asking those of you who want to continue on the Plannning Commission to apply.”

    An hour long discussion followed about the future composition and the past actions of the County Planning Commission. It was perhaps the most serious, frank and well mannered discussion I have witnessed in the Courthouse or Town Hall in more than two years.
    Read more in the link...

    Moderator note:
    Please limit the amount of quoted text: it makes the post easier to read and avoids possible copyright infringement issues for us. Thank you and carry on.
    Last edited by Gedunker; 28 Jan 2009 at 9:49 AM.
    NATURE WASTES SPACE
    PAVEMENT IS OUR SALVATION


    Zeroxed signs found along Pacific Coast Highway in 1990. Proudly hanging in my office ever since... ;)

  2. #2
    Planning enabling legislation usually defines membership of planning commissions, so I checked the Colorado statutes, but I had a difficult time finding the information on the website (maybe our Colorado planners can chime in). My point, that APA should be the guideline for membership of a county planning commission seems a bit odd to me, as opposed to following state law.

    That said, I have seen some instances where the local executive (whether a mayor or board of county commissioners) have tried something similar. It never flies because of the enabling legislation here, which limits the appointments of those offices and compels membership from certain other bodies (city engineer, parks board, city council members, for example).

    We also have dealt with the proverbial 'no-man's land' by creating an extra-territorial jurisdiction where the city controls planning and development, but the folks live in the County. This is done to help development in the ETJ conform to city codes in anticipation of future annexation.

    Reading the article, it certainly seems that the town/county want to weaken zoning and development laws and let the developers have their way.

    I'll be in that neck of the woods later this summer. Something to check out -- a sort of busman's holiday, so to speak.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Off Width's avatar
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    Same Story - Part Two

    I had not checked the Colorado statutes yet (as I no longer live in the area) but that was my next move...

    There was a very interesting series of articles put out on the Pagosa Daily News website concerning the larger picture of what is happening in this little part of the world - me thinks something is stinky there.... I think I will go and post all of that article under a separate heading.

    Here is the second half of the story:

    http://www.pagosadailypost.com/news/...ned,_Part_Two/

    Planning Commission Removed But Not Resigned, Part Two

    Glenn Walsh | 1/27/09

    At the midpoint of this remarkably frank and serious discussion, BoCC Chair Bob Moomaw stated, “We have this no-man’s land that surrounds the Town’s border and, to be quite honest, that is where most of the action occurs.” Moomaw explained that changes were needed to accomplish a merger of Town and County planning departments and, possibly, planning commissions.

    One can assume that a smaller County Planning Commission, perhaps with only four members plus a County Commissioner, would be easier to combine with the Town Planning Commission, especially if the Town is given veto power over the members of the new County Planning Commission.

    That no-man’s land is presently being annexed by the Town of Pagosa Springs. That no-man’s land comprises most of the County’s new Urban Services Area development map, as well. The Urban Services Area map reads like a fault line between the development plates of the Town and County.

    The irony at work is this: the County is seeking a closer working relationship with the Town as the Town is adopting development and budgetary practices remarkably similar to those which nearly bankrupted the County in 2007.

    The Town Planning Commission and Town Council have set aside nearly every developmental guideline on their books to approve sketchy plans for nearly 4000 new residential units in the no-man’s land, and even sketchier plans for financing a 600 percent increase in the number of Town residences.

    The suspension of regulatory oversight and complete lack of financial due diligence about real estate projects which nearly bankrupted Wall Street has been, apparently, adopted as policy by the Town.

    And the no-man’s land will, in fact, have few people for the foreseeable future. The Town has vested developers with the right to do nothing for at least a decade.

    The reader might contrast this “pro-growth” right to do nothing with the actual growth overseen by the “anti-growth” BoCC and Archuleta County Planning Commission in the decade before 2006, when the Town and local water districts imposed the highest impact fees in the Four Corners: Archuleta County was the third fastest growing County in Colorado, with thousands of people building on the “unbuildable” lots (so labeled by County Development Director Rick Bellis) in Pagosa Lakes.

    Planning Commissioner Lesli Allison, with a serious smile, asked for one last “soapbox opportunity.” Allison noted the County Planning Commission had attempted to form a joint planning area with the Town in 2007.

    At that time, the Town and County could not jointly plan for one parcel on Hot Springs Boulevard, even as the County was on the precipice of a financial freefall.

    Allison warned, “A joint planning commission will be very Town-centric. ... The interests of the County which you represent will take a back burner.”

    Allison, the manager of the largest ranch in Archuleta County, reminded the BoCC of the need to protect the County’s ranching economy, which is intimately connected with the health of the hunting and fishing economy and millions of dollars in conservation grants.

    She noted the appeal of Archuleta’s natural beauty to tourists and asked the BoCC directly — “Do you want to approve a subdivision out in Upper Blanco Basin. Do the math.”

    Allison also defended the Planning Commission against charges it was “anti-growth,” warning the BoCC to “consider where you are hearing these things from.” She pantomimed criticism of the commission — “The Planning Commission is too anti-growth. The Planning Commission is too pro-growth. The Planning Commission moves too quickly. The Planning Commission moves too slowly.” Allison concluded, “When I hear that, I think maybe we are doing our job.”

    Planning Commissioner Cary Brown, who operates a smaller ranch directly south of Town, cautioned balance about exclusive focus on the Town and its “no-man’s land” — “People do not come to this Town because of the ambiance of Put Hill. They come because of what the County has that surrounds this Town.”

    Brown was friendly but very direct with his chief concern — “I caution you not to bring a bunch of parrots in here.”

    Planning Commissioner Judith Reilly noted Pagosa SUN editor Karl Isberg’s most recent editorial, which highlighted the County’s new oil and gas regulations, urban services area and nuisance ordinance as positive local achievements. Reilly added with a chuckle, “Last time I checked, all three of those were developed and passed by this committee.”

    Both incoming Commissioners listened respectfully and complimented the Planning Commissioners for the work they had devoted over the past year. The entire discussion was marked by a first-class professional temperament little in evidence for a long time at the County Courthouse.

    Clifford Lucero stated, “The time you have put in is unbelievable. ....That’s a lot of work and a lot of time away from your family. I really appreciate that.” Lucero urged the commissioners to reapply.

    John Ranson extended a personal reassurance. “This is not political. It is important for me to communicate this to you. This is not a fun decision. I was on the financial task force and I did not spend anywhere near the time that you have spent. ... This all surfaced right away and is difficult to deal with. ... We have an opportunity for a new start.”

    Allison assured the BoCC that she would be returning, whether on the new Planning Commission or not — “If I did not feel that I would be a good match for the new commission I will certainly be very active as a community member for that part of the County. We have actually seen a case recently where the County received some rough treatment and was neglected.”

    Allison was referencing a remarkably inept and somewhat disingenuous handling of a gas storage application by the County Planning Department which has recently established a propane gas distribution center at the entrance to the scenic Navajo River valley.

    Moomaw then closed the session as he had opened it, with a direct, friendly mixed message — “I want to thank you and I look forward to working with some of you on the new commission."
    NATURE WASTES SPACE
    PAVEMENT IS OUR SALVATION


    Zeroxed signs found along Pacific Coast Highway in 1990. Proudly hanging in my office ever since... ;)

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Off Width's avatar
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    Pagosa Springs, Closed to the Public?

    Below you will find posted a rather lengthy editorial from the editor of an on-line newspaper in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. If you take the time to wade through it I think you will find an interesting tale of small town politics, planning uncertainty, "good-old-boys" vs. "newcomers," and the illusion of an open process really being closed to the public.

    You might find this interesting or boring - if you do manage to make it through this diatribe I would be interested in hearing your opinions on what is going on here - I think I know, however, it would be very valuable to me to hear outsiders perspectives.

    The original is seven parts in length - I have included the first two - interested parties can find the rest here:

    http://www.pagosadailypost.com/news/...lic,_Part_One/

    EDITORIAL: Pagosa Springs, Closed to the Public, Part One

    Bill Hudson | 1/8/09

    As a news reporter who attends too many government meetings, I used to find the twice-monthly Pagosa Springs Town Council sessions a breath of fresh air. Difficult issues were discussed openly and with considerable public input; the balance on the Council, of old timers and newcomers, sparked interesting ideas. The Council members, at the end of each discussion, would vote their consciences and many controversial decisions squeaked by, either “for’ or “against”, by a single vote.

    By the end of a typical meetings, I felt I had a good understanding of where each member stood on the issues, and the reasons behind their positions. I used to tell my friends, “The Town Council meetings are better than a movie at Liberty Theatre.”

    The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District Board meetings, by contrast, consistently threatened to put me to sleep. The Board rarely asked for public input on issues being discussed, and during all the meetings I attended, I don’t recall a single motion that wasn’t approved unanimously — in agreement with staff recommendations, of course.

    Alas, all good things must come to an end. The Pagosa Springs Town Council has become tediously boring, with the possible exception of its newest member, Shari Pierce.

    Not only have they become boring... but the current Council seems to be living in fear of revealing the reasoning behind their sometimes baffling decisions — or else they have no reasoning? — and they have apparently also stopped caring about the people they represent: the citizens of Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

    What does our current Town Council care about, then?

    Development.
    Read more in the link...

    Moderator note:
    Please limit the amount of quoted text: it makes the post easier to read and avoids possible copyright infringement issues for us. Also, as this is a continuation of the first thread you started about this topic, I've merged the threads. Please don't start new threads for this topic, but rather update this one. Thank you and carry on.
    Last edited by Gedunker; 28 Jan 2009 at 10:04 AM.
    NATURE WASTES SPACE
    PAVEMENT IS OUR SALVATION


    Zeroxed signs found along Pacific Coast Highway in 1990. Proudly hanging in my office ever since... ;)

  5. #5
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    I suspect you have a Council that has been wined and dined by the developer and his team. They got the sell-job about how great their project will be good for the the town and how the codes/plans for the area would jeapordize their project, perhaps even cause them to leave town. Maybe there have even been campaign contributions made. There are likely some questionable ethics involved in some way.

    The annexation and planning have probably been in the works for some time, likely spearheaded by the Town Manager. The public process was always an afterthought.

    I worked in a City where things were done in a similar way, similar back-room politics and deference to the developer. However, we were much more transparent and did actual planning (at least DCA said we did). And the annexation agreements were tough negotiations which enabled us to get public parks and land for community facilities.

    Note to Mods: I think this thread should have remained split since it is a new topic, even if it is in regard to the same place.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Off Width's avatar
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    Merged Threads

    Note to mods: I will limit the quoted text and just add the url to the original from now on -

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I have a feeling that this whole thing is being set up for a future sale - get the density added at no to little cost to the current land owner and then sell off the value added property.

    What I do not understand is why the Town would just give it away like they are doing....
    NATURE WASTES SPACE
    PAVEMENT IS OUR SALVATION


    Zeroxed signs found along Pacific Coast Highway in 1990. Proudly hanging in my office ever since... ;)

  7. #7
    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    Note to Mods: I think this thread should have remained split since it is a new topic, even if it is in regard to the same place.
    Moderator note:
    Thanks for the suggestion. I thought about that, but came to the conclusion that the two are so closely intertwined, both geographically and topically, that it might be confusing for readers to open a thread about the county, another about the town, and have difficulty remembering what's going on in the separate threads. I really do value your input and I thank you for it.


    Quote Originally posted by Off Width View post
    Note to mods: I will limit the quoted text and just add the url to the original from now on -
    Moderator note:
    Don't sweat it. Indeed, thanks for sharing. It's okay to quote a teaser from the article, and we can probably avoid copyright issues under the 'fair use' standard, but as a wholly volunteer site who wants or needs to mess with that? So, thanks and carry on!
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  8. #8
    Cyburbian MD Planner's avatar
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    This is an interesting situation. Here in Maryland a Planning Commissioner can "lose" his/her job one of three ways:

    1. Resign for whatever reason
    2. Be removed for malfeasance
    3. Not be reappointed for another term when currrent term expires

    Most places here have staggered five year terms, which I believe helps to keep a decent balance on the commission. Planning Commissions are "supposed" to be beyond political influence. We all know that's not really the case but at least if you have staggered terms you don't have a complete Commission that was appointed by a single administration.
    He's a planner, he's a dreamer, he's a sordid little schemer,
    Seems to think that money grows on trees . . .

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    Smoke and Mirrors

    Perhaps those in charge of hiring the current director should have done some homework before hiring, Mr. Bellis. Had they done so they would have found out that what he is doing now is a repeat of what he did in Plumsted Twp.

    Oh, by the way, has anyone ever checked into his resume and school history? Hmmm. I guess not. If they did, they would have found out that he never graduated from College with a degree.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Off Width's avatar
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    Thanks for the info

    I am glad that "someone who knows" is actually reading these posts...I have forwarded this post on to "someone who cares"....it should be interesting...

    Why do these small towns keep doing the same thing over and over?
    NATURE WASTES SPACE
    PAVEMENT IS OUR SALVATION


    Zeroxed signs found along Pacific Coast Highway in 1990. Proudly hanging in my office ever since... ;)

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    Just to clarify things

    I should have specified that he didn't graduate with a planning degree

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Off Width's avatar
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    Thanks for the Clarification

    Thank you for the clarification - there is a big difference between having no degree, and having a degree, just not in Planning.

    (Which, I am not completely convinced, is an absolute necessity to being a Planning or Development Director)...

    But, that being said, if anyone misrepresents their education on a resume, that should be grounds for dismissal....(I worked damned hard for my two graduate degrees...)
    NATURE WASTES SPACE
    PAVEMENT IS OUR SALVATION


    Zeroxed signs found along Pacific Coast Highway in 1990. Proudly hanging in my office ever since... ;)

  13. #13
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    I ran across the scathing memo this fellow wrote bashing his planning commission. It was not something I would ever write, even if I were leaving.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Off Width's avatar
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    Check out the PC Reply....

    Oh my...that memo was something else, wasn't it? I can not even imagine writing such a memo...

    If you have time you should read the Planning Commissions retort to his memo. It is quite interesting and calls out every single point made against them.

    http://www.fourcornersdailypost.com/...Commission.pdf


    My question remains - how do these small towns end up in these situations?
    NATURE WASTES SPACE
    PAVEMENT IS OUR SALVATION


    Zeroxed signs found along Pacific Coast Highway in 1990. Proudly hanging in my office ever since... ;)

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    Bingo....

    as you indicated....lying on a resume is only the first step to others, and believe me, there will be others. As to how small towns can do this? He's good, very good. He gives a very good first impression, but after that, they better watch out. He will tear them apart.

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    Any new updates?

    Are there any new updates as to this issues and others that may be revalent? As fate would have it, I ran into a someone else who was very involved with Mr. Bellis while he was out in Plumsted, NJ. To quote him, "I think that he is self destructive and his own worst enemy". We both wonder, has he self destructed yet? Or is it still a work in progress? Has anyone been following what's going on out there?

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Off Width's avatar
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    Here is a link to the latest going-ons with the various commissions in beautiful, yet oddly dysfunctional Pagosa Springs, Colorado:

    http://www.pagosadailypost.com/news/...ing,_Part_One/
    NATURE WASTES SPACE
    PAVEMENT IS OUR SALVATION


    Zeroxed signs found along Pacific Coast Highway in 1990. Proudly hanging in my office ever since... ;)

  18. #18
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    Thanks for the link

    You know what they say.....History repeats itself. Hmm, a conflict? you think???

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    Quote Originally posted by OneWhoKnows View post
    Perhaps those in charge of hiring the current director should have done some homework before hiring, Mr. Bellis. Had they done so they would have found out that what he is doing now is a repeat of what he did in Plumsted Twp.

    Oh, by the way, has anyone ever checked into his resume and school history? Hmmm. I guess not. If they did, they would have found out that he never graduated from College with a degree.
    AND YOU BASE THIS INFORMATION ON WHAT SOURCE?

    Quote Originally posted by OneWhoKnows View post
    as you indicated....lying on a resume is only the first step to others, and believe me, there will be others. As to how small towns can do this? He's good, very good. He gives a very good first impression, but after that, they better watch out. He will tear them apart.
    Quote Originally posted by OneWhoKnows View post
    Are there any new updates as to this issues and others that may be revalent? As fate would have it, I ran into a someone else who was very involved with Mr. Bellis while he was out in Plumsted, NJ. To quote him, "I think that he is self destructive and his own worst enemy". We both wonder, has he self destructed yet? Or is it still a work in progress? Has anyone been following what's going on out there?
    Using slander and undocumented quotes from unknown sources is within anyone's rights but does not educate any of us as to what a person is made of but does have a lot to do with gossip and slander which is the highest form of degradation of this society. Too much time is spent on grammar school nonsense such as name calling and hiding under "he said, she said".
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 28 Oct 2009 at 5:04 PM. Reason: double reply

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