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Trinidad City Council finds rezoning a hot issue

TRINIDAD — It seemed the only thing on the Trinidad City Council’s regular meeting agenda for Tuesday, Dec. 15, was a rezoning item. But it played out before a packed house in the council chambers, with more citizens against the rezoning for the Noah’s Ark Animal Welfare building than supporting it, and it was only the first reading of the ordinance. Even before the meeting began moving forward, the council voted 7-0 to move all the miscellaneous business to the top of the agenda. They took only a few minutes to approve an off-premises 3.2 percent beer license renewal for JR’s Fuel Stop on East Main. They also voted 7-0 to appoint Bob Fabec to the ARPA Board, and approved a $5 million grant submission to the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) to fund improvements to the city’s water and sewer infrastructure. Then came the meat and potatoes of the meeting: the first reading of an ordinance to rezone donated property on Santa Fe Trail in the Peak development area from growth-residential estate to growth-neighborhood services zoning. The property, 2.2 acres, was donated to the Noah’s Ark Animal Welfare Association by the Sawaya Family Trust. Richard Sawaya is an owner and developer of much of the property along Santa Fe Trail in the Peak neighborhood. A public hearing was opened and Tara Marshall, the city’s development administrator, said, “The planning commission found the project to be in harmony with the city’s comprehensive plan and that it is found to have met the definition of being in the public interest.” It was also noted Noah’s Ark delivered to the city council 173 letters of support for the project. Then the public was allowed to comment. Ed Griego, representing the Noah’s Ark Welfare Association approached the council and noted the current location of Noah’s Ark animal shelter had taken in around 1,200 dogs and 600 cats over the course of its operation. “This is not an attempt to create a regional shelter for the City of Trinidad,” he said. “Many of the animals we take in go to other towns and cities for adoption.” The operating budget for the center is about $400,000. The city has allocated $25,000 in its 2016 budget for donation to Noah’s Ark. That will cover about five percent of operational costs. Karen Griego and Nancy Lackey, both spoke in favor of the project and seven others voiced opposition. Opponents arguments focused mainly on it being a good idea, just not in their neighborhood because it would hurt property values. The council voted 7-0 to approve the first reading of the ordinance and set Jan. 5, 2016, as the hearing date. The old city council will vote on the issue under old business and then the new council will be sworn in and begin the new business section of the meeting agenda. The council adjourned at about 9:43 pm.