Durango City Councilors Leigh Meigs and Scott Graham broke their silence Tuesday with a prepared joint statement explaining their decision to recuse themselves from the ongoing Parks, Open Space and Trails master plan process, which began in October.
The councilors had been criticized by some members of the POST Master Plan Steering Committee and their fellow councilors for not participating in meetings and updates of the plan rewrite, which is being done under contract by PROS Consulting. Durango's last POST Master Plan was written in 2001.
In the statement, Meigs and Graham cited six key reasons for their opposition to the update process:•Influence of special interests will prevent a 50-50 split of funding to parks and recreation and natural-land preservation.
•City councilors were told to remain outside the process but have instead been drawn into it.
•Timing of the draft rewrite, scheduled for June, will potentially force a newly seated council to vote on it after the April election.
•Selective release of preliminary conclusions could prove misleading in favor of special-interest groups.
•Domination of the process by special interests results in predictable conclusions counter to an open public process.
•The mail-in survey, sent to residents last week, is invalid and should be replaced with a phone survey.
After Graham read the statement and copies were distributed to councilors and city staff, Mayor Renee Parsons and Councilors Michael Rendon and Doug Lyon verbally sparred with Meigs and Graham before it was decided to delay further debate until the council's Feb. 17 meeting. With a relatively light preliminary agenda, debate at next week's meeting could dominate the proceedings.
"Having just received it, I'd like to read it," Parsons said.
"I think having it at this late hour ... these were the kinds of things that should've been discussed earlier in the process," she said.
Lyon worried the division on the council could hamper future funding by Great Outdoors Colorado, which is providing $50,000 of the $125,000 total cost of the rewrite.
"I'm a little uncomfortable with the three of us being down here on the low road while you are safely on the high road," Lyon said.
"Three-quarters of the way through (the process) isn't the time to bring this up, and it could cost us a lot of money."
While Tuesday's meeting was a study session at which no binding decisions can be made, councilors appeared to reach a consensus of sorts on one suggestion in the printed statement. Meigs and Graham recommend that to ensure the 50-50 split, two master plans be created with two separate processes: one for parks and recreation and one for natural lands preservation. Each entity now has its own advisory board after last week's decision to consolidate four POST boards into two.
"I think two plans would be a good thing. It would get rid of the divisiveness ... and if that's the conversation, I'm for it," Rendon said.