City council undecided on Rio Bravo

ALAMOSA — Alamosa city councilors are as yet undecided on an RV resort proposal that would include a portion of the Alamosa Ranch.

Councilors asked questions of staff and developers during their Wednesday night council meeting and will continue discussions next Wednesday, Feb. 28, during a work session that will be open to public attendance and comment.

The developers have also held meetings with the community and golf course membership and will meet with residents of the subdivision near the proposed Rio Bravo Resort.

Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks told the council this proposal would follow city procedures for a planned unit development (PUD.) One of the requirements would be a traffic study, she said, and the developer would pay for that. Rio Bravo partner Don Spencer said the partners planned to do that.

The PUD process includes public hearings before the city planning commission and city council, Brooks explained.

Since meeting with the community last Friday, developers have scaled back their proposal from 336 to 325 spaces. The initial proposal, shared with the city during a work session on January 24, was for 500 RV spaces. Of the 325 spaces, 50-100 would be open to public camping with the remainder sold as memberships.

Also since Friday’s community meeting, developers have removed from the proposed RV resort a walking trial by the river frequented by residents who raised concerns during Friday’s meeting over their continued access and enjoyment of the trail.

Developers have requested to purchase or swap 35 acres of city-owned ranch property that would comprise the first phase of the RV resort, with a second phase to be developed on private property owned by the developers. The resort will be located off North River Road near the disc golf course and archery range, with the developers planning to pave the entrance to that area.

The city council issued requests for proposals from anyone interested in this portion of the ranch property, and Brooks told the council that Rio Bravo was the only group to submit a proposal.

She added that the city has an appraisal pending on the portion of the ranch property developers wish to swap or purchase, and staff hope to have that appraisal in the next few weeks.

Brooks said staff has talked with ranch lessee Alan Simpson who uses these 35 acres for his cattle ranching operation, which is part of the almost 1,200 acres comprising the ranch. “He is not necessarily in favor of it, but he also recognizes it probably would not hurt his operation that much,” Brooks said.

Councilman Michael Carson said there definitely would be a traffic impact as a result of this development, and he was concerned that streets and other needs in Ward 4, which he represents, would be neglected as city funding would have to be used to maintain or repair streets affected by this development.

Carson also said he felt like this development was moving really fast.

“I have a ton of questions,” he said. “I am not convinced.”

He said economic development is good, and this idea is good, but he still has a lot of questions and might be the only one to vote against if he had to make a choice right now.

He added that the council needed to listen to what the residents want, and many do not want to change the rural character of Alamosa. He was concerned about the council setting a precedent.

Councilman Jan Vigil thanked the developers for listening and for reducing the number of spaces. “I think that’s huge for a lot of people,” he said.

Councilman David Broyles said he believed the city council should move forward with a decision so the developers know. He said he appreciated the comments from the public and the developers’ alterations in response to concerns. He said he sat on the marketing board for 13 years, and the board’s purpose was to market Alamosa as a tourist destination. An RV park would bring in tourists, he said.

Vigil stressed that no decision had yet been made and if anyone got that impression from the council, he apologized. “Nothing has been decided yet, and we are going to keep asking for your input.”

Councilor Liz Thomas Hensley said she was not quite ready to give her opinion and wanted to hear more from residents, especially now that the developers have adjusted their design in response to concerns. (Residents can comment via the city’s web site or call or email councilors directly.) She said her ward, Ward 1, was the most directly affected by this development, and she had received quite a bit of communication from people living in the ward.

“I am definitely pro economic development but I do see both sides,” Hensley said.

She added she would feel more comfortable with a swap that might provide something better for the community.

Councilor Kristina Daniel said she still had a concern about giving a public asset to a non-public entity. “For me it’s really about relinquishing a public asset and making sure we are not going down a slippery slope.”

She said she was not dead set against it and wanted to find a balance. “I want to make sure we are thoughtful and proactive,” she said.

Vigil said he could understand the concern about the slippery slope. He was concerned if the city sold off part of the ranch other potential buyers might want to purchase off pieces of it.

Mayor Ty Coleman said it was important for the council to do due diligence. “This is very early stages,” he added. “I believe we should have as many meetings as possible, as we need so we can be as transparent as possible to the community.”

Alamosa council questions for Rio Bravo:

Some of the questions Alamosa city council had for staff and developers of the Rio Bravo Resort Wednesday night included:

(Councilman Jan Vigil) Could the city pass an ordinance prohibiting RV traffic in residential areas, since that was a concern from the public? City Attorney Erich Schwiesow said the city could close certain streets to specific weights of vehicles.

(Vigil) Can the city require an environmental impact study? City Manager Heather Brooks and Schwiesow said that would be up to the state or federal government whether a study would be required, for example if any of this area was designated wetlands. Rio Bravo partner Don Spencer said the partners would be looking into that.

(Councilman David Broyles) How far is the first phase of this development from the river? Developers and staff estimated a quarter to half a mile.

(Broyles) Is there enough water for the development? Brooks said the developer would pay to connect to city water and sewer, and the city’s system can handle the additional load. Public Works Director Mark Wright added that there is a 10-inch water line crossing the Rio Grande to the Cottonwood Subdivision, and it was sized to handle future development. Regarding sewer, the developers will have to put in a lift station, Wright added.

(Councilor Liz Thomas Hensley) What was the ranch purchased for? Brooks said it was originally bought to provide dirt for levee work as well as for its valuable water rights. Hensley also asked about the proximity of existing houses to this development, and Brooks said the existing housing is farther away, but home sites are part of the future plans. Hensley also asked about walking trails, and Brooks said the trails people are using are not designated trails.

(Mayor Ty Coleman) Why these pieces of property for the land swap? Brooks explained that she understood the developers were offering to swap to the city property they owned that might provide more wildlife habitat and other public values. (Spencer said the area created more challenges for home sites, however.) They will appraise the property they wish to swap with the city, she added. She said the developers’ property would be appraised as residential, which would be higher, while the city-owned ranch is zoned agricultural at this point.

(Councilman Michael Carson) Why use the city portion first? Spencer said the development costs would be less for the property the developers hope to swap/purchase from the city. “We could build 200 spaces there quicker,” he said.

(Carson) Would lodging tax be collected? Spencer said lodging taxes would be applied to the non-membership spaces. Developers have conducted an economic impact report, which included taxes and other economic impacts, which when applied to multipliers total $12.7 million a year, he said.

(Hensley) What if this does not work out, is not successful? Spencer said he and the other partners do not believe this will fail. They have the financial backing to make it work, he said. “We really don’t think too much about failure.” He said developers are working with Alamosa State Bank for financing this approximately $8 million project.

(Coleman) Is the development still sustainable with the reduced number of spaces now proposed? Spencer said, “We will do very well … Our business model worked at a higher level before but it works just fine now.”

(Vigil) Why Alamosa? Spencer said he lives here, for one thing, but beyond that he and other partners believed this area was underserved for RV users. The closest RV resort of any size is Fun Valley by South Fork, he said. It has about 400 spaces. Alamosa is also a good site because it is a hub and provides access to many amenities, Spencer said.

Area residents comment on RV proposal:

Several residents shared their thoughts regarding the RV resort during the Alamosa city council meeting Wednesday.

Konnie Martin, a homeowner near the proposed site, urged the council to be “very thoughtful” about this proposal. She said she had concerns and questions about the business model and “about what happens if an upscale RV resort is not what this business turns out to be.”

She said she was concerned about the impact the resort would have on the community, on her household and on the people who enjoy the ranch open space.

“I am very supportive of this development, but I want to make sure it’s done in a very thoughtful manner.”

She added that when something like this changes the ranch, “there isn’t a way to go back.”

Martin said it seemed like this was a “done deal” and that there was an attempt to quiet those with an opposing voice.

She told the council as representatives of the citizens they had the obligation to make sure they had all the information before making a decision.

Delzia Worley agreed with Martin’s comments. She also urged the council to be thoughtful about the RV resort but said this also provides an opportunity to stimulate economic development.

“I am very much in support of economic development,” she said, “and this project done right.”

Matthew Ikle, who had spoken to the council during its February 7th meeting, said he was concerned about the impact of the vehicles the RV’s would be bringing in with them and that would be driving on area streets. He recommended a traffic study. He referred to a study that indicated 87 percent of RV’s towed other vehicles, which would mean there would be a substantial number of vehicles using city streets.

Peter Wise, who also had spoken to the council on February 7, urged preservation of the trails in this area and invited those interested in walking the trails with David Montgomery to meet on Saturday at 10 a.m. at the disc golf course entrance.

Faustin Martinez, who served on the Alamosa Ranch board for many years, said he was concerned about where the water was going to come from for this size of development. He said when he served on the ranch board, the ranch board’s recommendation to the city council was “that this ranch stay as a working ranch, that it not deviate from a working ranch.”

He said the city purchased the ranch for its water rights and must guard those carefully.

He added that he lives on Riverwood Drive, across from the proposed development, “and I don’t know that I want to see RV’s across the river.”

He was concerned about noise from the RV generators and increased traffic.

He said he was not against an RV park but he believed there must be somewhere else in this big San Luis Valley where it could be placed and benefit everybody.

“It’s not that I am totally against it, but the area I totally disagree with,” he said.