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In a packed, four-hour meeting, the Buena Vista Board of Trustees discussed the upcoming Carbonate Street development, a new water treatment plan, new Police Department structure, and other local issues.

The water master plan was approved in the consent agenda, along with the Town Clerk’s report and meeting minutes from the Historic Preservation Commission, the Planning & Zoning Commission, and the Airport Advisory Board.

During the public comment period, Amy Eckstein, a BV resident, and former Buena Vista Trustee, advocated for American Rescue Plan Act dollars to go to an affordable housing fund. “I recognize that there aren’t any stipulations on how the COVID money is spent, but I think it’s important for the town to consider dedicating the funds to something that has been impacted by COVID,” she said. “COVID’s negative impact on affordable housing is not only generally accepted by the community, but it is well documented in the Mountain Migration Report. The 2020 audit spells out that affordable housing is one of the greatest risks to the local economy.”

Eckstein also said she wanted to see less money taken from the general fund for the police station and more left in the town’s reserve. She added that to her understanding about $1.5 million would be used, leaving around $1.5 to $1.6 million in reserve.

“This town remains a heavily tourist-based economy, and all that comes in in the summer, which coincides with wildfire season,” said Eckstein. “I would just hope that it’s considered that it may be safer for the community to use less of the general fund dollars and maybe take a larger loan.”

Eric Gibb and Diane Look, who volunteer with the group that hosts the BV Strong community dinner, took a few minutes to thank the town for their support. Additionally, Gibb spoke to the $3,000 the town sets aside each year.

Setup of some of the 450 tables
that stretched the length of the Buena Visa Main Street for the Sept. 24. 2019 BV Strong dinner.

“Up until this year, we didn’t have to tap into that. This year we did, and we thank you for the donation. We would like to ask that you continue to put that in the budget, and we may have to tap into that more regularly,” Gibb shared. “[The dinner] is an incredibly valuable thing in the community and would ask that the board consider continuing to allow us to have that money for the event.”

Read McCulloch of the Chaffee Housing Trust also shared an update on their recent activity, including a number of homes ready for sale with buyers locked in, a new bilingual homeownership program director, and their goals to keep those properties available to low-income families.

Carbonate Street Project Promises Workforce Housing

The board then transitioned to business items, kicking it off with updates on the Carbonate Street lots. Wendy Hall and Rick Hum of the Chaffee County Community Foundation helped introduce Planning Director Joseph Teipel’s presentation.

The development of the Carbonate Street lots is intended to create a minimum of 65 new units with rents or sale prices serving households earning between 60 – 140 percent average median income (AMI). No short-term lodging will be allowed, and condominiums will be prohibited in perpetuity through either a ground lease or deed restriction. Local employers and employees will be given preferential treatment in the tenant selection process and criteria.

The development will also feature a new childcare space for children 0-5 years old as well as new commercial spaces aimed at supporting local year-round entrepreneurs and businesses. Additionally, long-term ownership and management would be turned over to the Chaffee Housing Authority.

The two options presented are to either issue a Request for Proposals for developers or to negotiate a land transfer to CHA for their development. In his report, Teipel and his staff recommend Option One, which could move the project along faster.

“The time it would take to issue an RFP, get proposals, interview and process those proposals, and then select a developer and negotiate a development agreement…is more or less the same whether we’re doing it or the Housing Authority is doing it,” he explains. “The added timeframe is the land transfer piece, making sure that we and the Housing Authority feel like we’re on the same page with what it looks like to transfer land to the Housing Authority. I would anticipate that process taking a number of months.”

The Housing Authority also has a number of other responsibilities with a smaller staff, so Teipel feels that the town could devote more staff time to the project. In the public input campaign, Teipel said there was a clear feeling of urgency to the project from the public.

“There’s a clear desire and approval from residents that this needs to be top of mind; top of the list,” he continues. “We don’t want to burn ourselves out by any means, but we also recognize, and I think that I speak for much of the leadership team and the staff when I say it, that this is something that we all believe fully in and want to see happen as soon as possible.”

Trustee David Volpe moved to adopt option one as presented and direct staff to issue the RFP for a developer, which was seconded by Trustee Cindy Swisher. The motion was approved unanimously. Trustees Libby Fay and Gina Lucrezi also moved and seconded the motion to approve the amendment of the 2021 budget by $10,000 for the project, which was also approved unanimously.

Water Treatment Project Scope Reviewed

Public Works Director Shawn Williams introduced Josh McGibbon and Richard Hood of JVA Consulting Engineers to discuss proposed adjustments to water treatment. McGibbon shared that he and Hood discussed the goal and purpose of the project with town staff. Goals include distributing high-quality water, developing and maintaining a redundant water supply, implementing a reliable treatment system, and limiting operations and maintenance costs.

“We made sure that in every step of the process we kept those goals in mind,” says McGibbon.

The first alternative presented was to implement cartridge filters to treat the Infiltration Gallery (IG). The second was to implement gravity membranes to treat IG and Cottonwood Creek surface water.

Cartridge filters would be a simpler filtration process and would not have a liquid waste stream. However, they would not be able to utilize Cottonwood Creek surface water. Additionally, the cartridges must be thrown away once they are fully used.

Gravity membrane treatment would allow them to utilize both water sources, the IG and the Cottonwood Creek water. The membranes can also be rehabilitated to their original state and are a more resilient process. However, the membrane option does require pretreatment of the water, would produce a liquid waste stream, and require a higher Operator in Responsible Charge (ORC) license.

McGibbon and Hood said that the project recommends installing the gravity membranes in order to treat more water and utilize both the IG water and Cottonwood Creek Surface Water.

Design for New Buena Vistas Police Station to Move Ahead

Town Administrator Phillip Puckett brought forth Resolution No. 4, which would approve an agreement with Reilly Johnson Architecture (RJA) for Police Station Architecture Services, which was approved unanimously.

The Board directed staff to move forward with a Request for Proposal (RFP) process in the summer of 2021 to select a firm to design the new Police Station and prepare for construction to bring in 2022. Staff had identified an estimated budget of $230,000 for design services at the time. The current agreement with RJA would pull $255,900 from the general fund, pulling from excess 2021 revenues.

Grant Bryans, Code Enforcement Officer, reported that there have been a number of bear problems with trash in town and requested the board consider options for code adjustments.

Bryans put forth two code options to support reducing bear issues. The first would be requiring bear-resistant trash for all citizens, which would significantly improve mitigation efforts but would come at a high-cost burden for citizens. The other option would be to require all residents and property owners to ensure that trash does not cause litter by animals, weather, or negligence and communicate this to tenants or other invitees. Set penalties would be assessed if trash does cause litter.

Trustee Libby Fay moved to direct town staff to come up with a penalty for trash that causes litter. Trustee Gina Lucrezi seconded the motion, and Mayor Duff Lacy suggested Bryans propose a few penalties and potentially a graduated scale.

“This is a life or death question for the bears,” said Trustee Fay, “so I would say it should be a fairly significant amount.” The motion was approved unanimously.

The board also heard from Joel Benson, Special Projects Manager, who brought forth a number of considerations for the board regarding the long-term water plan and some of the immediate needs.

“​​A more extensive planning effort is needed with the community to revisit how we want the town to be and to publicly understand the housing-water ‘dyad,’ or two-pronged competing issue,” writes Benson in his memo. “However, a more extensive planning process will take time and there is an immediacy to the implications of the [water plan]. While a more extensive planning process could occur in-house, it requires organization, public platform, input gathering, iterations, and will last beyond the next election cycle. In the interim, the Board would likely want to contemplate some stopgap measures.”

Related to the more extensive planning process, staff “recommend that Trustees direct staff to begin a comprehensive planning process that addresses collective vision and strategy elements based on demographics and desires of the community, and that fits within resource limitations,” writes the memo. The process would direct planning and provide a sort of umbrella document for other regularly used planning documents. Expenses due to mapping and bringing in experts are anticipated at around $10,000 to come from the water fund.

In regards to more immediate concerns, staff also recommend that the Trustees direct staff to bring back for discussion or draft legislation on a number of issues, including a water rate study, set aside an amount of Single-Family Equivalents (SFEs), and implementing a conservation plan as soon as practically possible. The board voted to direct staff to bring these topics back for discussion and to continue looking at these immediate water concerns.

Budget Discussion

Town Treasurer Michelle Stoke reported that the budget saw a few changes since the previous meeting. The $10,000 contribution to the Envision fire mitigation grant, which was requested at the last meeting, was added to the budget, the Police administration role was changed from part-time to full-time, sales tax revenue was updated to reflect actual receipts, and fund balance spreadsheets were updated to remove carryover duplication and include the funds mentioned above.

She also requested a board adjustment for 2021 to include a 27th pay period which would be paid on December 31, 2021, to keep aligned with the bi-weekly payroll model, which was moved for and approved.

In his report, Town Administrator Puckett said that the town’s intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the County for Building Services will renew again in 2022. “Staff is proposing that we spend a little bit of time … just exploring what industry standards are out there regarding building department services outsourced by municipalities, just as a good check-in to make sure our current agreement with the county is still competitive.”

Planning Director Joseph Teipel reported that the Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended the board approve a new zone district called R-1.5, which could be bundled with a few other potential zoning changes, in addition to a number of other strategies to improve housing affordability. He also advised folks to keep their eyes open for the launch of my-bv.com, a new public engagement platform for the town.

Public Works Director Shawn Williams reported that water is holding steady at 15 percent of metered water unaccounted for. He also provided updates on waterline and meter installations on new developments in the town, including South Main, the Farm, and the Fading West Factory. Public Works is also preparing for the Community Center Capital Project, which involves improving irrigation.

Jack Wyles, Airport Manager, reported that the fall/winter staffing hours are now in effect for the airport. The airport just finished its testing with Agusta, and Boeing has entered the production phase. Wyles said they also finished the stucco repairs on the front of their building after about two years.

During Trustee-Staff Interaction, Trustee Fay reminded the board that COVID is still present in the valley, with 23 local cases. Trustee Rowe voiced his optimism regarding the Carbonate Street project, which was echoed by Teipel. Trustee Lucrezi expressed gratitude for the opportunities she’s had to learn more about the CHA and housing in the valley. Public Works Director Williams thanked the Water Advisory Board for all their work.

The meeting adjourned to Executive Session at 11:01 p.m. The next regular meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. on November 9 at the Community Center. 715 East Main Street. The board will also have a work session at 6:00 p.m. to discuss 2022 Budget Requests from the Recreation Advisory Board, Trails Advisory Board, and Historic Preservation Commission. No decisions will be made during the work session.