Hundreds of vehicles a day stream through the tiny village of Taos Ski Valley on their way to one of the premier ski resorts in the country. As Taos Ski Valley resort continues to grow into a world class destination, more people will come.
The privately owned ski resort's growth presents challenges for the village of Taos Ski Valley, one of the four candidates said recently they are ready to tackle if elected.
About three dozen people turned out for the forum, not as good as town manager John Avila was hoping for, but still not bad for late Saturday afternoon (Feb. 15).
Four of the five candidates running for two seats on the village council attended the forum.
Taos Ski Valley incorporated in 1996 and the last census put the village’s population at about 70. Fewer and fewer are full-time residents; at the same time, the ski corporation has launched a major development plan for the resort. While the ski resort is the engine driving the village's fortunes, the village provides some of the infrastructure and services on which the resort also depends.
The candidates agreed the lack of full-time residents, and fewer still who step up to run for elected office, leads to a potential problem with some people serving on both the council and the planning and zoning commission.
Roger Pattison, who was appointed to the council in 2018 and is running to retain his seat, said there needs to be more diversity on the two boards. Having people serve on both the council and the planning commission is “a fundamental flaw in the way we have operated.”
Tom Wittman, who is running for his seventh term on the council, said the founders of the village thought it was a good idea to have a person serving on both boards, to convey P and Z concerns to the council. “In 24 years, we have only had one P an Z decision appealed to the council,” said Wittman, who also chairs the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Candidate Ben Cook said while it is preferable to have different people serve on the council and the planning and zoning commission, it isn't always practical when so few people run for the positions.
Neal King, who also sits on the seven member Planning and Zoning Commission, said he would resign if he was elected to the council.
Providing water and sewer to remaining lots within the 1,800 acre village along with the challenges and benefits of proposed development within the Kachina Village subdivision were other topics at Saturday’s forum.
"Without commercial development, we live in a beautiful place but we have no money,” said King. "Without residents, we don’t have a village. So the village goes forward allowing both residential and commercial to develop because they depend on each other. One of the things I’m happy about is that the ski corporation is realizing it needs housing for its workers.”
Wittman said about 30 percent of lots remaining in the village haven’t been built on. Most are half acre lots, and the village could consider allowing some of those to be split as one way to allow more residences.
Cook noted that most of the remaining undeveloped lots are on steep slopes and the village needs to require that any homes built there are done so carefully in accordance with ordinance. “We shouldn’t allow people to just slap the houses up,” he said.
All the candidates thought development in the Kachina area could benefit the village, but could create some major headaches as well from increased traffic to dust. No master plan has been presented for the Kachina development. A preliminary plat could come before the village Planning and Zoning Commission in April, Wittman said.
The election for village council will be March 3.
Find out more about potential issues facing the council by taking a look at the Village of Taos Ski Valley 2017 comprehensive plan at vtsv.org.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect first reference for the last name of candidate Ben Cook.