Volume 105, Number 18 - May 1, 2008
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Park OK’d before election
Although locals have yet to vote at next Tuesday’s election on whether they support such use of tax dollars, the Pinedale Town Council voted at Monday’s meeting to submit an offer of $1.7 million to purchase the 18 acres south of Boyd Skinner Town Park. This doesn’t guarantee, however, that landowner Jim Bowles will accept the offer and sell the area to be annexed into the town park, contrary to his longtime plans of developing a 12-unit subdivision on the property.
The council’s unexpected offer might shock the community, as the council had voted at its last meeting to let residents vote on whether they wanted the town to purchase the property at all at the Town Council elections on May 6.
“I don’t see the need for the Town of Pinedale to vote on this,” said Council member Chris House, who hadn’t been present at the last meeting when the council voted to include the issue on the ballot.
House argued that results from a January survey that residents received with their water bills had already shown a majority support for the town purchasing the property. Other people he has simply spoken with have also expressed support for annexing the land into the town park to preserve it as open space.
But Council member Gary Heuck, who had pushed to include a simple “yes or no” question on the ballot, vehemently disagreed. “Apparently whoever votes on doing this tonight don’t give a damn on what the voter says,” Heuck said, repeating his earlier protests that the wording in the January survey had been slanted and unavailable to many locals. “If this doesn’t come up on the ballot, I don’t think it’s fair to the voters to spend almost $2 million of their money.”
Mayor Stephen Smith pointed out that the park annexation had been added to the ballot only as a non-binding resolution, or a formal survey that the council isn’t obligated to adhere to, anyway.
“I understand where you’re coming from, but at the same time, this council has always had the charge of spending taxpayers’ money,” Smith said. “When we spend $8 million on a sewer and water line project, we don’t put it on the ballot. When we spend $4 million on paving the roads for a subdivision, we don’t put it on the ballot. When we spend $45,000 on a new dump truck, we don’t put it on the ballot.
“We’re charged with representing the people of this town and making decisions. That’s a philosophical point, but I feel very strongly about it.”
Council member Nylla Kunard supported buying the property in one lump sum, despite hesitations she had expressed at previous meetings.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t want the park, I just wanted the money to be used for infrastructure,” Kunard said. “Now I think there’s enough (support) on the council to pass this, so my idea is if we’re going to pass it, I want to pay for it all at once. I don’t want to pay rent, I don’t want to pay interest. We have the funds, I want to pay for it.”
The council had decided to offer $1.7 million price after recent negotiations with Bowles.
Town Attorney Ed Wood said the land was actually appraised in February at a value of $1.49 million, and he wasn’t allowed to discuss the ensuing negotiations because they took place in executive session.
The town has enough money set aside in the current budget for the purchase, with $1.5 allocated under Capital Improvement Land and $240,000 allocated under Capital Improvement Parks.
Bowles, however, has a timeline for developing the Pine Creek Estates subdivision on the property, which he has already delayed for a year while waiting for the Town Council to make an offer.
As the town will construct an easement through the property in May, Bowles has planned to install water and sewer lines for the subdivision during the construction period to save the cost and hassle of digging up the road again later.
If the town can’t offer reasonable terms in relation to the closing date and other conditions about the purchase, Bowles will proceed with developing the property, said Bowles’ legal representative Gaston Gosar after the meeting.
“I imagine we will see this decision made fairly quickly,” Gosar said.
With that in mind, Bowles and Gosar still submitted the preliminary plat, or detailed maps, of the Pine Creek Estates to the council.
As prior concerns about drainage around the subdivision had been addressed — Town Engineer Eugene Ninnie confirmed that the proposed apartments would be safe from flooding — the council approved the plat. Bowles can start construction after the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Town Council review and approve the final version of the maps.
In the meantime, the question about whether the town should purchase the property will still appear on next Tuesday’s ballot. “In terms of what it’s going to accomplish, probably nothing,” Council member Dave Hohl acknowledged after the meeting. “But folks want it, so we’ll have it.”
Heuck grumbled that if the town does purchase the property, it will be wasting its money on the nine acres of wetlands, which can’t support any kind of construction, anyway.
“(Those acres) are going to be there forever and it don’t cost the town a dime, because it can’t be changed, no matter if I own it, you own it, Mr. Bowles owns it, or the town owns it,” he said. “The wetlands can’t be disturbed.”
Ninnie countered that the wetlands would serve as an “integral” part of the park open space. The town will build a walking access to the wetlands lined with educational kiosks that describe the native habitat, for instance. “We’re building a park, and the wetlands are a part of the park,” Ninnie said.
— Matt Harber, representing his development company Haymaker Land Holding, submitted the preliminary plat for the BloomField subdivision once again. The council had tabled the plat at the last meeting on the insistence that before it approves the master plan for the 240 acres, Harber must either install infrastructure for the entire subdivision or provide bonding for every road and water line.
Harber wasn’t inclined to do either, as he hopes to develop the subdivision in phases throughout the next 10 to 15 years based on housing demand, and he doesn’t yet know how many of the planned residential areas will necessarily come to fruition.
Thus he resubmitted the preliminary plat with the subdivision reconfigured into nine blocks, instead of the 17 proposed earlier. Because the blocks are divided in a way that provides each with separate access to roads and water lines, Harber will only have to provide infrastructure or bonding for one block at a time.
— The council approved putting out bids for a new dump truck, new pickup truck and new street sweeper for the Public Works, contingent on the budget for 2008.
The council approved the purchase of a plow for Public Works at $2,650, and authorized the wiring of a new valve for the septic receiving station at a cost not to exceed $11,000.
The council also approved moving the north gate at the wastewater facility back 20 feet at a price not to exceed $5,000.
— Ninnie reported that he will meet with WLC Engineering on May 1 to prepare a grant request for the State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB).
Ninnie predicted that McKinstry Engineering will have the designs and energy audit for the town garage prepared by mid-May, with construction anticipated to begin in early June.
Phase one and three of the water and sewer rehabilitation project are also slated to begin in mid-May, he said, and Stantec Engineering will begin a town-road infrastructure in early May.
— The council approved waiving a temporary sign fee for the Sublette County Softball League. Softball organizer Kate Grimes pointed out that local children have been requesting a full-sized baseball diamond and a soccer field, which the council agreed to look into.
— The council heard budget requests from local organizations, including the Discovery Center, the Learning Center, the Pinedale Fine Arts Council (PFAC) and the Sexual Assault Family Violence (SAFV) Task Force.
— The council approved the final plat of Hidden Hills Subdivision of Tract 2 Glacier Ridge Large Tract Development.
— The council approved the first reading of Ordinance 439 to establish an annual appropriation ordinance.
The next Town Council meeting will be on May 12.
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