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The Buena Vista Board of Trustees (BOT) unanimously voted to approve the renewal of the ground lease agreement with the Sportsman’s Club for another ten years, at a dollar a year, at Tuesday’s meeting.

The Board heard from Fire Marshal Kira Jones, received advice from Town Attorney Jeff Parker on opting into class action suits related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) chemicals, and received official communication from Town Clerk Paula Barnett that all materials have been received for the Topside Annexation.

Buena Vista Town Hall. Photo by Henry DeKam

Sportsman’s Club Ground Lease Agreement Renewed

The Sportsman’s Club ground lease agreement with the Town was unanimously approved for renewal. The Sportsman’s Club has been renting the space from the town in ten-year increments. The lease was set to expire in May 2024, but the Club sought an early renewal to strengthen its application for a Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) grant.

The Sportsman’s Club received public comment in support of the lease renewal earlier in the evening from community members such as Adam Nelson of the Salida Gunshop and trap shooting team head coach Jake Farber. Sportsman’s Club secretary Greg Newton and Chairman Rex Roberson also spoke in favor of the renewal.

Newton emphasized the focus on teaching safety and dedication to a sport that can be played far later in life than football. He cited a variety of events, such as hosting Young Life or sponsoring community kids to attend a two-week NRA camp.

“Not everybody is into shooting guns,” admitted Newton, “But hunting is a large heritage here.”

He described all of the kids involved with the club as very polite and said “nothing negative” happens there.

“For me, I might have to move if we don’t get the lease,” concluded Newton.

Roberson praised Newton and Farber for their shotgun program. Roberson said the club has maintained the property and represented the community well in his opinion.

Farber said the Sportsman’s Club was vital for the high school team. “With our venue at the Sportsman’s Club, we were able to take the High School team from a dead last position to a first-place position in the state of Colorado for 1A,” said Farber. “The Sportsman’s Club is an integral part of our activity, and we teach more than shooting.” Farber cited other tenants of respect, responsibility, and ethics.

Despite some confusion over the mere $10 fee for the lease, the BOT approved its renewal under the same terms. Buena Vista Sportsman’s Club is NRA-sanctioned and NRA-insured.

Chaffee County Fire Protection District Updates the BOT

Fire Marshal Kira Jones delivered The Chaffee County Fire Protection District’s update to the Board. She began by detailing the district’s search for a new chief, reporting that they received nineteen applications. Those applications have been narrowed down to seven potential candidates. Jones explained that they hope to have the new chief hired and in place by mid-January or February at the latest.

Jones also reported that multi-agency active shooter training took place mid-November with the Buena Vista Police Department and the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Department. She emphasized that collaboration is key in an emergency situation because all three agencies will be on the scene and need to be able to work together effectively.

Jones also delivered the recommendation that Buena Vista consider adopting a policy to require yearly re-inspections of Short Term Rentals (STR) rather than the current process, which relies on the property owner to conduct their own re-inspections after the first one.

“We would like to strongly recommend re-inspections with renewals for short-term rentals,” said Jones. “Currently Town operates on you completing your own inspection and trusting everything is the way that it was.”

The Board seemed inclined to agree with the suggestion with Trustees Gina Lucrezi and Cindie Swisher expressing support for the idea later in the meeting.

Upcoming Code Changes Introduced

Code has been a big topic of conversation, with the introduction and first reading of the ordinance to adopt updated 2021 codes happening later in the same meeting.

The ordinance is titled:

“An Ordinance of the Town of Buena Vista, Colorado Repealing and Reenacting Articles II, III, IV, V, VI VII, XII, XIII, XV, XVI, XVIII, and XIX of the Buena Vista Municipal Code to Adopt by Reference the 2021 International Building Code, 2021 International Residential Code, 2020 National Electric Code, 2021 International Mechanical Code, 2021 International Plumbing Code, 2021 International Energy Conservation Code, 2021 International Fire Code, 2021 International Fuel Gas Code, 2021 International Existing Building Code, 2021 International Property Maintenance Code, and 2021 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code, and Amending Chapter 18 of the Buena Vista Municipal Code by the Addition of New Article XVIII to Adopt by Reference the 2023 Colorado Model Electric Ready and Solar Ready Code.”

By statute, the proposed ordinance changing the code must be introduced at this meeting for adoption at the next. Between those meetings, the code in its entirety will be published in the local print paper, The Chaffee County Times.

BOT Considers New Ballot Measure for April

The publishing requirement for ordinances instigated a different topic of conversation. Given that changes like this can be quite lengthy and the cost of publishing all thirty-five pages quite high, Town Clerk Paula Barnett, along with administrator Brian Berger, recommended the Board consider creating a ballot question to change the requirements to publishing the title rather than the full text, which can be made available online and in other affordable avenues.

Puckett estimated the thirty-five pages would cost about $1,100 to publish.

A similar ballot question was put to voters in 2014, but lost with 172 no votes against 118 yes votes. According to Barnett, it was an election with an exceptionally low turnout.

Barnett encouraged bringing the question to voters again due to advances in technology and the cost of publishing. “I personally don’t think it’s worth spending that much money,” said Barnett.

Trustee Devin Rowe moved to direct staff to create draft language for a ballot question to put to the voters in the upcoming April election. Trustee Andrew Rice seconded the motion, which was unanimously approved by the board.

Engagement of Legal Services on PFAS

Town Attorney Jeff Parker advised the BOT to consider consulting with attorneys regarding class action lawsuits currently happening related to the chemical known as PFAS. Essentially, the town can choose to opt out of participating; potentially having to create their own case in the future, or can opt into participating in class action suits and potentially receive settlement money from the case.

Parker identified potential counsel with more knowledge of these class action suits and recommended that the town receive at least some advice on the topic despite potential attorney costs. “There’s just no way our firm could provide the kind of advice you need on this,” explained Parker while recommending the connection with the other firm.

Parker spoke with Town Administrator Brian Berger, who agreed with the recommendation.

Parker also explained that new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations regarding the chemicals are also on the horizon.

The town had conducted some testing earlier in the year and found minimal amounts of PFAS in Buena Vista.

Trustee Andrew Rice explained that Buena Vista has the advantage of being upstream and that the good news is this area is likely not as impacted as others because of that.

Parker also suggested this would not be the end of litigation like this, suggesting a relationship with more experienced attorneys in the subject could be beneficial in the future. “I don’t want to force you to hire anybody,” said Parker. “I just don’t have the expertise to advise anyone about it.”

Berger sought guidance from the BOT on whether or not staff could pursue the conversation with the attorneys to learn more. Trustee Cobb expressed support for moving forward and fact-finding to learn more about the town’s position in these suits.

The full video of November 28’s meeting is available on the Town of Buena Vista’s YouTube channel. The full packet from Tuesday’s meeting is available online here.