Snowmass council makes late decision | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass council makes late decision

Joel Stonington

The public wasn’t present when the Snowmass Village Town Council left an executive session Monday night with a decision to issue a request for operators of a new gas station.Town attorney John Dresser said there were discussions in executive session about a proposed lease for the new station, which is slated for construction on town property. When the council did not find that lease satisfactory, the members instructed staff to put out a request for other leases.The decision-making process likely broke two statutes of the Colorado Open Meeting Laws – or Sunshine Laws – according to Steve Zansberg, an attorney who specializes in media law. No members of the public were present after the meeting closed for executive session, when the decision for a request was made, so Zansberg believes there was a violation of proper notice. “The notice provision says any time a public body is going to have an open meeting … there must be notice provided to the public alerting them of that meeting,” Zansberg said. “They should have re-noticed and conducted a new open meeting.”Further, it is unclear how much discussion there was in the executive session regarding the request for operators. The tape the council gave Snowmass Town Clerk Rhonda Coxon after the executive session is blank, so there is no record of what happened. Coxon, however, asked the town attorney and economic resource director what happened because she must type up the meeting minutes. “They had the discussion to make the basis of the straw vote during executive session,” said Coxon, who added that GrassRoots TV didn’t record it because the council asked crews to leave for the executive session. “We talked about it and came out of executive decision and made [the decision],” said Snowmass Town Councilman Bill Boineau. “Unfortunately, [the public] had left. No one was hanging around. There wasn’t anybody around.”According to Zansberg, the Sunshine Laws explicitly state that public bodies must have open discussions on decisions that don’t have provisions allowing for an executive session, such as talking with an attorney about legal advice or developing a strategy for negotiations. Dresser said the instruction to staff wasn’t really a decision at all, though he did feel it was important to come out of executive session in order to give direction. He said the meeting was accurately noticed and did not violate any laws. The service station is a big question mark for Snowmass Village, which may lose its only gas station when Pat Smith’s partnership group redevelops Snowmass Center.Smith has already submitted a land-use application for an office building on the parcel where the current gas station is located. Community members have voiced the need for a gas station.Still, the choice of the entryway next to the Rodeo Lot as the site of a new station has garnered opposition. Some say a service station shouldn’t be next to the new recreation center and affordable housing. Though the council studied other sites, however, the entryway won out, and in August, the Town Council voted to have the current gas station operators build the new station.”The town is trying to be equitable as far as who we will lease the space to instead of picking someone who is here,” Boineau said. “We talked about what our policies should be, then we came out [of executive session] and said we thought our policy should be to do [a request for operators].”Mayor Douglas Mercatoris claimed that making the decision broke no laws, as the council opened the meeting and took a vote on the request for operators. “Every single aspect of the service station has been in the public forum, in public meetings,” he said. Joel Stonington’s e-mail is jstonington@aspentimes.com

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