How much regulation does a small town need?

Bayfield trustees question town manager proposal

Bayfield town trustees gave a cool reception Tuesday evening to a proposed resolution governing requests to name or re-name town property, such as parks.

Town Manager Chris La May presented the resolution for board feedback. It would formalize policies and procedures for considering such requests. One of the issues is how long after someone dies would be required before a public facility could be named after them.

"Is this urgent?" Mayor Pro Tem Michelle Nelson asked.

No, La May said. "It's based on recent experience that it would be beneficial for staff to know what the policy and procedure is."

Longtime trustee Ed Morlan commented, "My initial thought is, why do we have to write everything down? In my opinion, this is too much direction."

New trustee J.J. Sanders added, "Where does it stop?"

La May acknowledged, "There's no plan at this time to name or re-name anything." He sees it as something to have if the need arises.

"Is there anything below a resolution?" Morlan asked.

"Resolutions have less authority than an ordinance," La May said.

Nelson asked how naming requests are handled now. The question didn't get an answer.

Morlan cited a very complicated proposal in the early 2000s from a former town manager governing the type and number of various animals, such as goats, that could be kept within town limits. "What is the board for - except to look at these situations?" he persisted. "Why do we have to have it all written down?"

La May responded, "So the house doesn't get packed with a contentious crowd. It could be more difficult for you to say no (to a proposal) without a policy."

The sense of the board was to postpone more discussion until all board members are present. Mayor Rick Smith and trustee Rachel Davenport were out of town Tuesday.

Also Tuesday evening, trustees approved the low bid from Old Castle (Four Corners Materials) for this year's street resurfacing projects. Their base bid was $863,615 plus an add-alternate of $89,096 for additional work.

Trustees previously approved $194,000 in a separate contract for crack and sand sealing on various streets. They approved a company named AAPFL, based in San Juan County N.M., for that.

La May said federal off-system highway money that is administered through CDOT has been secured to replace both old green bridges on Bayfield Parkway at the same time instead of in separate years. But there are requirements with the money that can be time consuming and that require hiring an outside third party to negotiate easements or property acquisitions, instead of town staff doing it.

He also advised there are various utilities attached to the old bridges that will have to be dealt with.

"We'll keep plugging along," he said. Work could start this fall, but fall 2015 is more likely. The work is best done when the river flow is low.

In a work session before the meeting, new town attorney Jeff Robbins gave trustees a primer on legal issues they might face during meetings or out on the street.

Board decisions aren't based on compassion or audience applause, he said. Decisions must be based on town codes. Robbins advised trustees not to get involved trying to help an applicant fix a deficient application.

"Don't be the applicant's unpaid staff," he said. "Tell them to talk to staff about how to fix an application."

He warned trustees against talking outside of board meetings to applicants or community members on things they might be voting on later.

La May added that quasi-judicial decisions, such as on a development proposal, are supposed to be based on information presented at meetings, equally available to all board members.

"We try to follow the same policy no matter how big (or small) the land use decision is," La May said.

Robbins said, "Land use decisions are the ones that tend to bring out neighbor against neighbor. I've defended a lot of land use decisions in court. The ones that are easiest to defend are 'We (the governing body) rejected it because...' with code citations. Not just no."

Conditions attached to approvals also should be based on code provisions, he said.

He noted that any trustee communications that deal with town business, including e-mails, are public records subject to anyone asking for them. "Whenever you are sending an e-mail regarding town business, pretend you are sitting right there" on the dais, he said.