Town of Taos Regular Council Meeting Highlights 10/28/08

Approved: The Town of Taos’ Chile Line Transportation Service, will offer one day of free bus service on November 4, “Election Day”, during the line’s run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., to advertise and acquaint the public with the transit system and encourage use of public transit.

Approved: Town accepted management of a grant from the State of New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department to the Taos County Juvenile Justice Board so they may locally provide cost effective services and temporary, non-secure alternatives to detention.  Group previously given fiscal agent status by Town.  Town waived payment from this grant of fiscal agent ‘management fees’ – directing them to be recorded as part of the Town’s in-kind contribution to this effort.

Public Hearings –

1) Second hearing/final; Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to receive public input on community development needs and suggestions for future projects.  No added public input.  Town’s proposed project is phase 2 of the Reed and Alexander St. Improvement Project — water, flood control; $500,000 being applied for for phase 2.  Town successfully received $430,000 last year as part of this program for phase 1; plan complete, Town out to bid on phase 1.  Town matching funds are in place for phase 2; $259,000.

2) Appeal to case No. Planning and Zoning (P&Z) 2007-22 and P&Z 2008-20 – Andrew and Joetta Arguello, 107 Archuleta Lane.  a) Council waived timeliness requirements based on a presentation by the property owner’s attorney as to why she missed the deadline for their appeal (due to serious family health issues).  b) Then the appeal was heard concerning the property owner’s denial by P&Z to approve a variance permit for a home addition – an addition that was apparently built without any Town of Taos building permits, and, beyond this retroactive permit issue, allegedly was built in direct conflict with the Town’s required setbacks (although discussion did determine that the structure is ‘to code’).  Extensive presentations were made to Council about the historic nature of setbacks in Taos along with other considerations/arguments (practical difficulties; safety considerations, etc.); extensive discussion followed – including point that Town does not sanction this type of situation where ‘forgiveness is asked, rather than permission’.  Constituents cautioned that planning department should be consulted prior to any construction – not as costly/time consuming when take into consideration what has had to happen with this appeal.  Although open to public comment, none occurred; however, six letters from neighbors were submitted earlier and were read in support of the property owner’s appeal.  ‘Board of Adjustment’ suggested by P&Z staff to be established for future cases that might be similar to this situation.  Ultimate decision: Appeal approved, 4/0 (construction allowed), with conditions placed by staff to be met, and building permit fees to be paid retroactively along with penalties.

3) Adoption of Ordinance 08-16, High Performance Building Ordinance.  Council action postponed until the new Town attorney can thoroughly review the ordinance in the context of some legal actions taken against similar ordinances in other cities when federal standards are exceeded; other contributions/changes suggested by Council; further discussion/action continued to November 18 Regular Council meeting –

The focus of this ordinance is to have a Town incentive based program to cause improved water and energy-conserving construction in Taos.  Incentives take the form of fees waived by the Town when builders comply.  The ultimate point of the ordinance is to provide an incentive that effectively saves community resources, while even more importantly saving homeowners money on their monthly utility bills.

This effort’s core standards are based on nationally accepted measurements including the Home Energy Rating System, HERS, which is a standard measurement of a home’s energy efficiency; water conserving systems such as basic rainwater collection systems, drip or underground irrigation systems and low flow or gray-water toilets; and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for commercial projects.

If passed, the proposed, initial program is designed to be implemented in two parts:

  • voluntary (residential projects under 3,000 sq. ft.);
  • mandatory (residential projects over 3,000 sq. ft., and all commercial projects over 6,000 sq. ft.).

As currently drafted, ordinance proposes phase-in of provisions — voluntary through December, 2009; with overall, ultimate mandatory implementation on new construction, and remodels/expansions of 50% or more, going into effect December, 2010.

When a project falls into the mandatory category, builders would comply with the conservation standards, or pay a fee (which would go into a low and moderate income housing fund). Structures such as storage and utility buildings are proposed to be exempt,

Council expressed many concerns and pointed out areas they believe need clarification.  These included mandatory provisions for locals building homes who cannot afford mandatory ‘costs’, even with incentives.  There was expressed confusion about the new construction and renovation/remodel/expansion elements; suggestions on how to spend fees that might be collected – perhaps having them go to underwriting energy saving actions of low income locals building homes rather than into other types of affordable housing projects; concern about ‘expediting incentives’ – something Council believes should be available to everyone coming to the Town for permits.  In addition, Council asked Committee to come back with specific, estimated increased costs for construction on smaller, lower cost homes trying to meet these standards (based on a percentage of the overall home’s construction costs) so the public can more readily see costs compared to estimated savings over time.  And, if the issue to achieve baseline rating objectives is not really increased building costs related to energy savings, but more about how one uses items already in most construction (like insulation), then Council wants the Committee to come back with a fact sheet that demonstrates and explains that and outlines the education that should occur.

Presentation included local banker testimony that even lending costs would be reduced (origination fees; actual loan rates) when HERS standards are met on a home being purchased through them.  Other types of private sector savings were also alluded to by community supporters of the ordinance.

Program developed by Sage West Consultants working with a community-based Steering Committee and a Technical Review Committee.

Want more info and/or a copy of the ordinance?  Email Matt Foster, Long Range Planner, Town of Taos, mfoster@taosgov.com.

Cathy Connelly

Public Relations Director

Town of Taos

400 Camino de la Placita

Taos, NM 87571

575-751-2001

cconnelly@taosgov.com

http://www.taosgov.com

Quad Erat Demonstratum

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