Should Lawson Hill Seek Annexation?
by Gus Jarvis
Feb 23, 2012 | 865 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TELLURIDE – What began as a discussion on the possibility of additional commercial uses within the Lawson Hill Planned Unit Development during a Telluride Town Council work session on Tuesday ended in a discussion on annexation.

Kathy Green, speaking as a representative for the Society Turn Corporation and the owners of the Society Turn Business Center, was at the work session to gauge council’s feeling on adding some limited commercial uses to the B lots in the business center. The Society Turn Business Center B lots are currently zoned for light industrial and service uses and the owners would like to convert some of the developed buildings into limited neighborhood uses such as restaurants/bars, small convenience stores and other small-scale uses that would serve the neighborhood.

“The feedback that we’ve been getting is that people would like a place to eat at night,” Green told council. “It would complete the community there to have a modest amount of food service, and we would like to provide services to the community at Lawson Hill.”

Ultimately, the zoning change would have to be granted at the county level since the Lawson Hill PUD is in the unincorporated area of San Miguel County, but utilities, such as water and sewer, would need to be purchased from the town.

Green said she wanted to talk with the town as to its feelings on the matter before proposing a master plan amendment to the county. One notion that everybody seemed to agree on during the discussion is that Lawson Hill has matured since it was approved in 1991.

“I am not advocating any uses, but a lot has changed in that neighborhood since 1991,” San Miguel County Planning Director Mike Rozycki said. “How do you find the right balance of needed services and goods without harming Telluride’s main street and the Telluride business community? That has always been the challenge. I am supporting this discussion to bring some sense on how this issue can proceed.”

Several Lawson Hill residents told council they’d like to see more neighborhood commercial uses allowed in the development, where approximately 600 people live. Jerry Greene, owner of Baked in Telluride, spoke out against the idea, saying a cluster of restaurants and other retail establishments at Lawson Hill will only drive customers further from Telluride’s business district.

“I hear what residents are saying,” Councilmember Brian Werner said. “Lawson Hill is maturing. Frankly, I’d not like to look at this as [just] a four-lot project but the future of it and bring the annexation agreement back into the public sphere.”

“This is an interesting political hot potato,” Councilmember Chris Myers said, questioning whether or not to go about this in a “piecemeal” procedure that could over-burden staff. “What would the pros and cons be of annexation?” he asked.

Continuing that thread, Councilmember Bob Saunders said the implications of annexation could be a big change for a lot of residents.

“There are a lot of people who own businesses in town but live in Lawson Hill,” Saunders said. “They don’t get a voice in [Telluride elections]. I would like to somehow get a meeting together with Lawson Hill and find out what their feelings are. If it is annexation into town, it would be a whole different story.”

Rather than council initiating any talks on annexation, Councilmember Thom Carnevale suggested that Lawson Hill residents begin the procedure.

“I think annexation should be initiated by the residents of Lawson Hill,” Carnevale said. “If residents feel that is an important issue for them, they need to make that decision and come to us. If we approach them, it looks like we have ulterior motives.”

As to any direction given to town staff on the discussion, Mayor Stu Fraser said council needs more information and left it at that.

gjarvis@watchnewspapers.com or @gusgusj
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