Opinion: Taos hotel saga and the town council

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I walked out of last week’s Taos Town Council meeting where our newest hotel was given the green light, satisfied with the outcome of a productive process. Many commendable citizen activists took the evening off anticipating the Council was doing the right thing for Taos. I was feeling pretty good about consensus politics until I read the article in last week’s Taos News.

Developer Jay Batra returned to our community with a revised and workable plan, which, seemed to have eluded the Council and City Manager for many months. He exhibited a willingness to work with our community in a manner, which some on the Town Council have seemed unable or unwilling to do over the past year. And thanks to council members Fernandez and Cantu for keeping this alive when many were working against them to bury the entire issue. Perhaps now they can turn their attention to the deplorable issues facing our historic district, which are the main concerns, which drive locals and tourists away.

However, when I read the comments in the newspaper from Rick Bellis, quoting Council member Evans as saying; “Maybe people will come out a little earlier in the process.” I was embarrassed for Taoseños. Shame! Where was your transparency when trying to thrust a four-story hotel down the citizens’ throats about a year ago? Who works for whom? We came forward in word and meeting and testimony over 3,000 strong. You dismissively discounted nearly everyone.

High-rise zoning variances for investment tourism are not stand-alone issues and have not gone away. Few know much about this and perhaps Mr. Bellis’ catastrophic failure in a coup against the voice of citizens will put this to rest for now. And perhaps not.

I refer to near downtown, about which there is another plan for a zoning variance in the works on Mr. Bellis’ desk. This is also a critical issue to the compartmentalization we are facing which often keeps planning away from public scrutiny in a way, which can hardly be seen as oversight. The plan I refer to is for high-rise, low-income housing that, in all likelihood if successful, may not even be ADA compliant. I’ve repeatedly sought information from Town Hall on this and have been repeatedly ignored.

In Rick Bellis’ own words, I challenge him to, “come out a little earlier in the process,” as well.

Let us have a full community hearing on related high-rise housing and tourism issues or even a referendum on city planning to address openly the immediate needs in Taos and the historic district. Let’s look at commerce, tourism and infrastructure in the light-of-day rather than with murky, back-room deals.

Landau lives in Ranchos de Taos.

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