Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The ordinance titled “An Emergency Ordinance Imposing a Temporary Moratorium on the Acceptance, Processing, and Approval of Subdivision Applications and Annexation Petitions within the Town” was approved by the Buena Vista Trustees on Tuesday, May 23. The trustees have reiterated that the town needs some time to properly plan, so that it avoids over-committing water resources. The decision places a temporary pause on new subdivision applications and annexation requests that do not provide their own water.

Citizen comments opposed the moratorium. Concerns over workforce housing, the potential for a rise in housing costs, and the message being sent to businesses and developers were consistent themes.

CEO of Aristata Communications and Chaffee County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Board Member Carlin Walsh said the moratorium wouldn’t change the housing supply problem facing residents. He asserted that the moratorium sends a message that Buena Vista isn’t open for business and offered the EDC’s assistance to help the Town support the community, residents, and businesses.

BETCH Salida nonprofit founder Salty Riggs spoke to workforce losses exacerbated by the high cost of living in the area. Riggs said that she has lost friends and board members simply because they can’t afford to live here and recommended looking farther ahead than the 120-day moratorium.

“Don’t think about tomorrow, but how these decisions will affect your kids’, kids’, kids’, kids,” said Riggs. She went on to explain that she had to move three times this year alone and that the housing problem isn’t just about what is affordable but what is available at all.

“No business, no revenue. No revenue, no town,” said Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Heather Rupska. “We’re knee-deep in it. If we don’t act with swift solutions, it’s not getting any better. It’s either start doing something or it’s going to tank.”

Rupska mentioned that many businesses have lost prospective employees who abandon job offers after realizing how high the cost of living is in the area. Rupska and the others who participated in the public comment all believe that the moratorium would raise the cost of living and exacerbate these types of problems.

The board ultimately decided to approve the moratorium, assuring developers and business owners that they hear their concerns and appreciate everything that they do for the town.

The Board explained that this measure was motivated by concerns over the availability of water. Existing developments with applications already in process will not be disrupted by the moratorium. The Board said none of these developments had reached out with any concerns.

“I feel like we’re still moving toward housing goals. We’re very committed to try and get affordable housing,” said Trustee Sue Cobb.

Trustee Cindie Swisher explained that the four-month moratorium was meant to create an opportunity to properly plan to avoid overissuing water and encountering worse problems down the road.

Mayor Pro Tem Gina Lucrezi moved to adopt the ordinance and Trustee Devin Rowe seconded the motion, which passed. There were no dissenting votes.

Other Business Items

All ordinances on the agenda were approved. These include the increase of fees for Public Works, the use of grant funding for a construction project at the airport, and the proposal from Wright Water Engineers for the design and engineering of a new well.

With the passing of the ordinance, cash in lieu for asphalt paving was set to $4 per square foot. The bulk water rate increase for fill stations was raised three cents for gallons from $17 to $30 per 1,000 gallons, and an increase from $4.25 to $7.50 per 250 gallons for the credit card option. Public Works Director Shawn Williams acknowledged this would put them at the higher end in the state.

The airport received approval to use grant funding for the apron rehabilitation and fence relocation project at the airport. The funding was already secured from the FAA and CDOT to cover the construction project scheduled for this summer.

“We are all in the black on this,” said Airport Manager Jack Wyles. Additional government funding is available should the project need it, but Wyles was confident it wouldn’t be necessary, and they expect to come in way under the budget.

The approval of the Wright Water Engineer’s proposal signifies a step toward a new well to serve as a point of redundancy and provide additional municipal water supply. The well would also offer an opportunity for future water rights; however, water rights for the project have not yet been obtained, so the well would need to be augmented until then. The well will be in the Buena Vista River Park area, just north of the softball and baseball fields. Minor impacts to the disc golf course are expected.

The final business item was the approval for the Board to appoint a replacement for Trustee Mark Jenkins who has resigned. Rather than spending $10,000 on an election, the board decided to select the new Trustee by appointment given the looming April 2024 election, which will feature four open seats.

Those interested in being considered for the open Trustee position can fill out a questionnaire available online before 5:00 p.m. June 19.

The full packet containing more detailed information on the May 23 meeting is available here.