Last updated 11:15PM ET
December 14, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
Durango Railroad Square On Track
(2008-09-17)
(ksut) - HOST LEAD: Plans for a 72-million dollar railroad themed hotel and conference center in downtown Durango have been given their first green light.
KSUT's Victor Locke reports.

HOST LEAD: After an hour long discussion, Durango City Councilors voted 4-1 last night to sell city land at College and Camino Del Rio to developers of Railroad Square Hotel and Conference Center.
They also endorsed a review process for the 245-thousand square foot development that would allow the developers, railroad owner Al Harper and Karen Langhart, to break ground in January.
The land the city is selling abuts and belonged to the railroad until 2002.
The city bought it that year for 2.5-million dollars as a sort of loan to the railroad, which was at the time, financially strapped.
The city will receive at least 2.5-million dollars for the parcel, or more, depending on an appraisal which will be completed next month.
Payment for the land could also come in the form of the developers building a parking garage on city owned land between 7th and 8th on Camino, which the city would own.
The sale would restrict use of the land for only the 220 room hotel and conference center.
City Manager Ron LeBlanc told councilors, the project is important to the city's future.
LEBLANC: IT BRINGS AN ANCHOR TO THE DOWNTOWN THAT DOESN'T CURRENTLY EXIST, AND BRINGS PEDESTRIANS AND IS CONSISTENT WITH OUR VISION PLAN FOR DOWNTOWN. AND I THINK THE CITY WITH THE RECENT LOSS OF HOTEL AND MOTEL ROOMS CAN USE THE EXTRA SPACE. IT'S ALSO A REVENUE GENERATOR, NOT ONLY FOR THE CITY TREASURY BUT FOR ALL THE MERCHANTS ALONG MAIN AVENUE.
It's estimated the hotel and center would generate three quarters of a million dollars or more per year in additional sales and lodger taxes.
The sale wouldn't close until the project receives necessary city approvals, which would include at least two public hearings.
City Attorney David Smith told council either side could back out of the deal if other certain conditions, including the price aren't met.
SMITH: WE'RE NOT GOING TO TAKE A PENNY LESS THAN TWO AND A HALF MILLION DOLLARS FOR THIS PROPERTY.
Still councilor Renee Parsons questioned accepting the sales contract prior to an appraisal being completed.
And she said while she likes the project she finds expediting or fast tracking the approval of the rezoning, design and development itself, so ground can be broken in early January unacceptable.
PARSONS: THERE'S JUST THOSE ISSUES THAT I THINK ARE APPROPRIATE TO BE VETTED IN MORE THAN JUST A THREE MONTH EXPEDITED PROCESS PERIOD.
Parsons also questions it's economic viability.
Both Harper and Langhart countered Parsons arguments.
HARPER: WE CAN AFFORD ON A PRIVATE BASIS TO MAKE THIS WORK, AND WE THINK THAT'S THE BEST ANSWER FOR OUR COMMUNITY, NO TAXES, NO OTHER SUPPORT LONG TERM, NOT FOR CAPITAL COSTS, NOT FOR OPERATING COSTS, ALL DONE ON A PRIVATE BASIS.
LANGHART: I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE CONCERN OF RISK FROM THE STANDPOINT OF THE CITY. I THINK THE LARGEST RISK YOU HAVE IS TO ONLY GET 2.5-MILLION DOLLARS FOR THE PROPERTY WHICH I DON'T THINK WILL BE THE CASE AND QUITE FRANKLY, MOST COMMUNITIES EITHER GIVE LAND OR GIVE MONEY TO TRY TO GET SOMETHING LIKE THIS BUILT FOR THE COMMUNITY.
Parsons four fellow councilors all agreed the project is worth pursuing.
Councilor Leigh Meigs:
MEIGS: NONE OF US IS GOING TO STANDBY AND ALLOW ANY NEGLECT OF A FULL AND COMPLETE DELIBERATION AND PUBLIC HEARING PROCESS.
After the 4-1 vote, both Harper and Langhart said they are pleased and will now push forward with finalizing their financing and seek the various approvals they need to make the Railroad Square Hotel and Conference Center a reality.
From KSUT, Four Corners Public Radio, I'm Victor Locke.

© Copyright 2017, ksut