Pitkin Trustee's Meeting: July 9, 2018

by Pitkin News july 10, 2018


Gary Ham and D. C. Higgins, two long time property owners in Pitkin, were selected as the Citizens of the Year during the July 9 regular Town Council meeting. The nominations of Ham and Higgins noted that both have been very involved in Pitkin for over four decades and have provided invaluable support and assistance to the community and the Pitkin Volunteer Fire Department, not to mention authoritative input during numerous coffee klatches at local eateries.

Mayor Rachel New reviewed the recently enacted Town ordinance which implements fire bans in accordance with the action of the Gunnison County Commissioners. In response to questions about enforceability of the ordinance the Mayor has contacted Gunnison County officials and discussions are underway to determine if it will be possible to enter into an Intergovernmental Agreement for enforcement with Gunnison County. In the meantime, in spite of recent rains, a Stage 2 fire ban remains in effect and the Mayor asks for cooperation in honoring the ban.

During Commissioner Reports Brian Holt explained that the Board of Zoning Adjustment recently received a request concerning business signage in residential areas. The Zoning Code does not permit signage other than on the property associated with a sign. The Zoning Board has recommended that the Town Council consider installing signs at the main entrances to Pitkin which can, at a business owner’s expense, display a placard indicating the name and location of the owner’s business. Mr. Holt also explained concerns about a possible conflict of interest if a Zoning Board member is appointed as the Zoning Enforcement Officer. At this time there is no enforcement officer named but the Zoning Code appears to indicate the Zoning Board Chairman is the enforcement official. The Town Hall commissioner report indicated that although some have expressed concern about the colors used for the painting project underway, what appears now is primer and proper colors will be used to finalize the project.

Mike Rupp presented a public comment expressing concern about perceived conflicts of interest of Town officials in relationship to the ongoing controversy over short term rentals. Mr. Rupp’s comments, based in large part on standard ethical considerations and state law, expressed concern that there is the perception that several town officials are involved in the advertisement, operation, and maintenance of short term rentals, or have relatives involved in those activities. Mr. Rupp believes that such officials should recuse themselves from any discussion of the topic or that the full Town Council should request their recusal.

The Town Council struggled with proper resolution of several complaints which were submitted to the Town. Some of the complaints were anonymous and the Council agreed it was best to not act on them at this time. One complaint concerned a possible violation of the OWTS regulations and the Council plans to address that at an upcoming meeting of the Environmental Health Board. Eddy Balch submitted a public comment concerning the obligation of that Board to enforce the OWTS regulations. After further discussion the Council agreed that it would be appropriate to review the existing nuisance ordinance as well as other town regulations which may be difficult to enforce. It was further noted by the Council that there is currently no enforcement mechanism in place for the various town regulations as the Town lacks an enforcement officer and a municipal court.

In 2017 the Pitkin Historical and Community Association proposed a resolution which was approved by the Town Council to establish a process by which property owners may have their property designated on the Pitkin Register of Historic Places. The purpose of the designation is to assist property owners who may seek possible grant funds or designation from the Colorado or National Register of Historic Places. Additionally, the PHCA plans to develop an informational brochure and map for individuals who may be interested in historic structures in Pitkin. After discussing the Town Council’s interest in having a better understanding of the criteria for selection, the Council approved the PHCA recommendation to place on the Pitkin Register of Historic Places the Pitkin Town Hall, Pitkin Hotel, Pitkin Community Church, Pitkin Museum/Historic School House, and the residence at 222 Main Street.

Mayor New submitted for Council consideration a proposed intergovernmental agreement (IGA) for snow removal services from Gunnison County for the coming winter season. The streets proposed to be cleared by the County Public Works Department are Main, State, River, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th. Last winter Gunnison County also plowed several other side streets which are not included in this year’s proposal. The Council member expressed frustration that the proposal is for less service than last year and that it is difficult for the Town to plan and budget when the level of service from Gunnison County constantly changes. Rather than approve the IGA at this time, the Council agreed to seek a meeting with Gunnison County Commissioners to discuss the future of snow removal services from Gunnison County.

At a July 2 work session the Council began discussion of developing an ordinance to place the issue of a sales tax increase before the Pitkin voters. The points discussed during that workshop were reviewed again and for background you may see a summary in the PitkinNews archives. The Council agreed to propose a 1.5% sales tax increase which will raise an additional $15,000 in revenue and raise the Town sales tax rate to 4.5%. Each one percent in local sales tax generates approximately $10,000 in revenue. Yet to be decided at future meeting is whether or not to retain or designate earmarks of the sales tax revenue. A 1982 sales tax of 1% was approved by the voters for the specific purpose of road and bridge improvements or funding for the Pitkin Volunteer Fire Department. There was also discussion of earmarking the proposed 1.5% increase for street fund purposes, particularly snow removal. The Council has until September to finalize the ordinance language and plans to have the issue included in a coordinated election ballot with Gunnison County at the November general election. The Mayor indicated that the Town may benefit from appointing a promotional committee to encourage passage of the sales tax increase and persons interested in serving on a 4-person committee may submit their names to the Town Clerk.

After the above business was concluded the Council discussed the need to schedule several workshop sessions to address key issues that need to be resolved by the Council. On July 17 the Council will sit as the Environmental Health Board to address the OWTS complaint referenced above and to discuss the requirements of the ordinance and the duties and responsibilities of the Sanitarian and clerk. On July 23 representatives of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs will present a strategic planning workshop and on July 24 the Council will take up discussion of a proposed short term rental regulation to be submitted to the voters at a special election later this year. Finally, the Council tentatively agreed to hold a workshop on July 30 to discuss proposed ordinances to define Town Commissioner duties and determine their formal relationship to the Town government.

You may listen to the audio recording of this meeting by following this Link.