If THD Agrees, Voters Will Help Determine Best and Highest Use for Telluride’s RV Lot
TELLURIDE – The Telluride Town Council unanimously agreed this week to place a question on the November ballot initiative to ask voters to determine the best and highest use of the RV lot on Mahoney Drive. The question will specifically ask the public whether the RV lot should be used as a site for a new Telluride Medical Center, a recreation center, or affordable housing units.
In an interview after the work session on Aug. 15, Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser explained that as long as the Telluride Hospital District agrees to wait until after the November election to decide on a site for the medical center, the town council will proceed to formally approve the ballot measure on Sept. 1.
However, “If THD decides not to wait until November to decide the new site for the medical center,” Fraser says, “the RV lot will be off the ballot.”
The work session, whose only agenda item was to discuss the future use of the RV lot on Mahoney Drive, took place directly on the heels of an Aug. 12 public forum hosted by the hospital district during which potential sites for the new medical center were discussed. The only sites that were considered during the forum were the Town of Mountain Village’s Town Hall site; Lots H and I, near the Telluride Mountain School in Lawson Hill, submitted by the Lawson Hill Property Owners Association; and a lot near the Conoco Station in Lawson Hill, submitted by Big Dog Holdings, LLC.
THD Board President Larry Mallard stated during the forum that while “we don’t even have an offer from Telluride on the RV Lot and we don’t even really have the ability to discuss it here tonight, if Telluride gives us the RV lot for consideration, it would be evaluated against other sites based on the information that has already been provided.”
Much of the public commentary and discussion during the forum was concerned with why Telluride was absent from consideration of potential sites.
Following the issuance of a Request for Information last March, THD announced three formal responses to the request from three landowners – one in Mountain Village and two in Lawson Hill – by the deadline. The hospital district did not receive a submission from the Town of Telluride regarding the possible use of the RV lot, which accounts for why the RV lot was not discussed during the forum.
The work session on Aug. 15, although not solely devoted to the issue of the medical center, did represent Telluride’s last opportunity to jump on the bandwagon to be considered by THD as a site, although as Mallard warned at the forum, there is no guarantee Telluride would be selected if the town did decide to offer the RV lot.
“The goal is to come to a resolution,” Fraser said at that meeting. “And when council chose not to be a part of the RFI process there was an unanswered question as to whether we needed to be involved in the discussion about where to have a new medical center. We do need to be involved.”
During the four-hour work session, Fraser proposed first that the town set up a work group (much as they did when determining whether Telluride would be an appropriate location for a new Science Research Center campus), which would discuss with THD whether the RV lot was a suitable location for the new medical center.
Council split 3-3 on that issue, and Fraser’s next suggestion to put three potential uses for the site to voters, was the direction council ultimately took.
According to a presentation prepared by Telluride Program Director Lance McDonald, there were far more than three potential uses for the RV lot, including parking (especially for festivals), a public transit corridor, public transit offices, education facilities and a community center.
Ultimately the council weighed impacts, zoning and public comments, among other factors, in determining that of all the possible uses, the highest and best use of the RV lot would be either a medical center, a recreation center or affordable housing.
Although at several points in the meeting it was stressed that the medical center was not the only issue at hand, the focus of the work session was largely devoted to the subject of the medical center.
Councilor Thom Carnevale spoke up for affordable housing, saying that the community has asked loud and clear for more affordable housing and that it is just as pressing an issue as keeping the medical center in town.
Although a ballot initiative could be a big step in the process of determining where the new medical center will be built, putting the RV lot on the ballot is not the end of the process. Fraser noted in the interview that “this is an advisory decision and is not binding,” adding that “even if THD agrees to wait until after the election to make a decision as to location, and even if voters decide that the medical center is the best use for this property, THD still gets the final say on what location is selected.”
Not everyone in the room was in favor of putting the medical center on the ballot.
Mallard spoke during the work session in opposition to putting the issue to voters yet again, stating, “I respect what you’re trying to do, but I believe the community has spoken fairly loudly to you twice on this subject and you guys ought to have the backbone to make the decision on your own and not throw it back to the electorate one more time.”
Councilor Bob Saunders expressed frustration with the Hospital District’s timing requirements, a theme that has long been a part of the medical center discussion, stating, “You have 19 years on your lease, why do we have to decide this now?”
The impact on the community was a major topic of concern in council’s determination of the three potential uses for the RV lot that will appear on the ballot. According to Fraser, while all three of the potential uses for the RV lot carry some impact, a medical center would carry the least amount of impact while an affordable housing complex would create the most impact.
Parking was addressed during the work session and in McDonald’s presentation as one of the main impacts of any development on the RV lot. But as Fraser later stated, if the medical center was built on Lot B there would be adequate parking on that lot for the facility. This would very possibly mean that people now using Lot B for parking, where there are currently no parking limitations in place, would have to park elsewhere in the area.
“The only way to meet the needs of parking issues in that area of town at all would be to convert the Shandoka lot or the Carhenge lot into a 2 or 3 deck parking facility,” he explained.