Developer razing buildings, raising concerns
PAGOSA SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – Silicon Valley millionaire David J. Brown says he has no plans of turning this mountain town into a Vail or Aspen, but some residents aren’t so sure.In the last two years, Brown has spent about $12.5 million buying 14 parcels in downtown Pagosa, which is east of Duragno, totaling about 8 acres, according to the Archuleta County Assessor’s Office.After buying Pagosa properties, Brown often tears down the buildings, leaving only dirt and fencing. Downtown storefronts are punctuated with empty spaces.Archuleta County Assessor Keren Prior said Brown has torn down at least $1 million in assessed property value, which decreases the county’s tax base.”There’s a ghost-town effect he’s created,” Prior said. “It’s kind of hard not to notice it.”In a phone interview, Brown said he intends to revitalize downtown Pagosa by bringing in more upscale stores, hotels and restaurants. He doesn’t want Pagosa to become an overly expensive town like Vail or Aspen. Rather, he wants to improve the economy while preserving the open-space feel that Pagosa enjoys.
“There’s real opportunity here,” he said.’Seeing dollar signs’So far Brown hasn’t destroyed any historic structures; in fact, many people say he has removed eyesores like run-down gas stations.But while residents of Pagosa, population 1,600, agree that change is inevitable, not everyone likes that one person appears to be leading the shift. After all, for any one person to change the look of a town seems ambitious, said Allan Bunch, a Pagosa business owner.”He’s probably used to paying for whatever he wants to have, and probably any amount,” said Bunch, who owns the Malt Shoppe. “I have no idea the depth of his pocket, but I suspect it’s deep.”Rosie Hatchett, a Pagosa resident for 35 years, said it is selfish for one person to use his wealth to take over a town.”I don’t think any of the locals want to see it changed into a rich town,” she said.
Jay Hubbard, co-owner of Pagosa Candy Co., worries elected officials are influenced by tax dollars, and Brown owns a big portion of the downtown – the town’s main tax base. He also worries about historical structures being torn down.”I think maybe (elected officials) are seeing more dollar signs than what they should be seeing, which is the historical significance of the area,” Hubbard said. ‘We’ve been discovered’Elected officials insist they are not being led around by Brown. Stan Holt, a town councilor for six years, said Brown works with the town on his plans; he doesn’t drive the political process.”I don’t get the impression that he wants to make this another Aspen or Vail,” Holt said. Archuleta is the third-fastest growing county in the state, according to the state Demography Office. While Archuleta remains a rural county, its population doubled between 1989 and 2004 – from 5,196 to 11,616. And the population is expected to double again in the next 20 years – a 3.2 to 3.7 percent growth rate.When Holt moved to this mountain town 15 years ago, there was one traffic light, a few shops and half the population. Now there are five stop lights, numerous fast-food chains and nearly 12,000 county residents.
“At one time, it was a sleepy town,” Holt said. “But seven to eight years ago, that changed. Now we have a lot happening. We’ve been discovered. The little, sleepy town is long gone.”Gene Crabtree, who has lived near Wolf Creek Pass for 15 years, said Pagosa used to be a friendlier place, where everyone would say hello on the street. Now, he said, women grab their purses and continue to walk when a stranger says hello.”Most of the people that have moved in here, they don’t know their neighbors,” Crabtree said. “It used to be you could stop in anybody’s house and shoot the breeze.”This story came from the Durango Herald via the Associated Press. Vail, Colorado