DMR clears six county hoops

Durango Mountain Resort cleared six hurdles Monday en route to its proposed expansion. La Plata County approved six of the resort’s master infrastructure plans, the largely technical documents guiding details like streets, water, sewage, trails, drainage and snow storage.

Over the next 20 years, DMR has plans to add 1,649 units and 410,000 square feet of commercial space over six villages along Highway 550 near the ski resort. Last fall, a referendum on the expansion went to a public vote, and citizens were given the opportunity to approve or reject the development. The plan passed and afterward, the resort and La Plata County set down standards for the development that were considerably more stringent than the county land-use regulations require. However, up until Monday, the development plan had established only two things: a maximum of 1,649 units in the development and the regulations by which the development will be judged.

More certainty was added to the proposal when the master plans for water, sewer, drainage, snow storage, streets and trails were approved. San Juan County and the Purgatory Metropolitan District had approved the plans earlier.

“La Plata County changed them only a little bit,” said County Planner Nancy Lauro. “They weren’t significant changes so no one thinks it should be much of an issue with those other agencies.”

The county is still working on the master plan for air quality.

On the one hand, Lauro noted that there had been no opposition voiced to the plans. On the other, she said that this stage of the planning process lacks sex appeal.

“It’s more of a technical step,” she said. “The next phases are more significant when we start getting into the conceptual village plans.”

During the review of the village plans, the public will get a look at hard numbers and what the villages will actually look like. Lauro said that the submittal of the first of these plans is expected within the month.

“We’re tentatively thinking that the first conceptual plan will go to our Planning Commission at the end of February,” she said.

In the meantime, she said that DMR was toying with submitting a change to the county’s land-use regulation. An official request has not been made, so the nature of the change is not public. However, Lauro said it could be touchy.

“They’re going to ask for a code amendment,” she said. “Whether it will work will have to be determined.”

$58 million budgeted for A-LP in ’04

A large chunk of funding was set aside for the Animas-La Plata project on Monday.

In George W. Bush’s proposed 2004 federal budget, $58 million has been earmarked for next year’s construction on the large, local water project. However, the Bureau of Reclamation is still waiting for the U.S. Congress to settle differences and appropriate the $33 million earmarked for A-LP construction for 2003.

Last year, $16 million was budgeted for the project through early October. President Bush’s proposed 2003 budget set aside an additional $33 million for the fiscal year, which began at that time. However, the budget still has yet to pass, and A-LP and Bureau of Reclamation crews have been operating on a continuing resolution, whereby week-to-week funding is awarded on a prorated basis on the $16 million allotment.

Expressing his frustration with the financing stream, Pat Schumacher, A-LP project manager, commented, “There’s $58 million in the President’s suggested budget for 2004, but that doesn’t put any money in my pocket yet.”

For the coming year, Schumacher said the Bureau of Reclamation is looking toward the excavation of the pump plant site, which will include blasting and serious earthwork and affect day-to-day life in Durango more significantly. In spite of the continuing resolution, he said he still has his eye on the targeted completion date of spring 2008.

As for the $58 million earmarked Monday, Schumacher said he hopes thatCongress can get it together before this fiscal year expires Oct. 1. “Hopefully before the end of this fiscal year, they’ll appropriate that money to us,” he said.

Two vacancies open on City Council

The terms of city councilors John Gamble and Amos Cordova expire April 15, and on April 1 city residents will be asked to vote on successors. Petitions are currently available for prospective candidates.

The term of office is four years, and the top two vote-getters will be sworn into office April 15. Petitions can be picked up now and must be returned by Feb. 25. Candidates must be 18 years old by April 1, be a registered voter and have been a resident of Durango for 12 consecutive months prior to election day. Petitions require 25 signatures from qualified voters.

Because of extremely low voter turnout in the last election, this year’s election will be done by mail.

Although Gamble and Cordova are able to run for reelection, neither has declared his candidacy.

For more information, contact the city clerk’s office at 385-2810.

Airport gets nod to stay open

The Durango-La Plata County airport is no longer planning to close for the month of May. Much-needed repairs will be taking place on the airport’s runway, but late last week, airport officials received Federal Aviation Administration permission to use the parallel taxiway as a back-up runway.

Ron Dent, airport manager, said there is hope that use of the taxiway will avoid impacts on normal airport operations. However, he said some restrictions will apply. Each carrier must receive FAA permission, there will be a limit on aircraft size and operations can only take place during daylight.

“Our chief concern is safety,” said Dent. “We’ve instituted a number of measures that will ensure safe operation.”

Dent noted that weather could present one conceivable problem. “If we had some bad weather we might have some problem getting flights in,” he said.

As for the current strip, crews will repair subsurface deterioration during in May. Dent said that the work must happen at that time of year because of the favorable temperatures. The airport had planned on a routine repaving initially, but significant erosion was discovered. A new drainage system will be included in repairs to prevent such rapid deterioration in the future. The total project cost is estimated at $5.5 million.

Durango Dog Park idea pitched

A group of local citizens, known as the Durango Dog Park Board, is pushing for a spot canine recreation on a piece of city property at the base of Smelter Mountain.

The Dog Park Board has entered into discussions with the Durango Parks and Recreation Department concerning 10 acres of city land along the Animas River. The acreage is the reclaimed tailings pile and across the river from the whitewater park and the wastewater treatment plant.

“Over the years, we’ve had a number of groups of dog owners ask for an opportunity to use a city-owned area for a dog park,” said Cathy Metz, director of parks and recreation.

Metz said that the city is looking favorably upon the request. However, access has become a sticking point.

“A dog park is pretty minimal in terms of improvements, but we do have some access issues,” said Metz.

The Dog Park Board had proposed building a bridge over Smelter Rapid. However, similar bridges have cost in the neighborhood of $400,000. Consequently, Metz said Parks and Rec is going to look into other options, namely a parking area on the west side of the river. Negotiations with the Colorado Department of Transportation should begin shortly.

“We are going to be talking with CDOT this week,” said Metz. “We’re just starting the research.”

Railroad names new general manager

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has announced the promotion of Paul Schranck to vice president/general manager. Schranck, who worked with the railroad for 20 years, has extensive experience in every aspect of its operation and will be responsible for all departments and day-to-day operations.

Schranck will continue to report to Jeffrey D. Jackson, sr. vice president/chief operating officer, and Loretta Murphy, sr. vice president and chief financial officer for American Heritage Railways, the parent company for D&SNGRR.

D&SNG owner Al Harper said that Schranck’s promotion will be a step toward helping the company grow. “This is one of the many steps that will enable American Heritage Railways to continue its planned growth within the railroad entertainment industry,” he said.






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