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Council upholds P and Z decision

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By Katy Korkos

Los Alamos County Council heard an appeal to the Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision to deny a request for a 75-lot subdivision to be located on San Ildefonso Road at North Mesa.  In a 6-to-0 vote, with Councilor Jim West absent, councilors affirmed the decision of the commission, which was based on applicant Sam Donaldson’s inability to comply with two of the required criteria for approval, those regarding the safety and general welfare of the community and requiring park land dedication in conformance with the comprehensive plan.Council is only allowed to overturn a decision if it believes the original decision was capricious, contrary to state law, not supported by the record, or not in accordance with adopted county plans, policies and ordinances,Donaldson’s argument was based on his interpretation of state law concerning impact fees for facilities, which he said superceded the county ordinance regarding land to be set aside for parks.“The ordinances that the county has adopted are proper and correct,” Donaldson said, “but they have been trumped by state law.”Community Development Director Rick Bohn said that while he and others have made an effort to work with the applicant, the parties were not able to come to an agreement.Councilor Fran Berting made the motion to affirm the decision of the Planning and Zoning Commission. “I find no basis in fact,” Berting said. She referred to her reading of the state code regarding impact fees, saying, “(the fees) do not impact our code, which is there to provide amenities and quality of life in our community. I think the P and Z ruling was based on facts, and was not capricious or unreasonable.”In other business, council heard a biefing LANS Deputy Director Jan van Prooyen on recent progress and accomplishments.Leadership at Los Alamos National Laboratory has briefed council on the state of the laboratory on a regular basis, coming before council every two or three months.This week, van Prooyen commented on what he called “ a very busy and productive past two months.”He thanked councilors for their participation at several hearings held recently on the transformation of the nuclear complex. “The complex transformation is crucial to national security, to the future of the lab and to the future of Los Alamos County,” van Prooyen said. “We expect that the lab will flourish.”Van Prooyen described the lab’s budget outlook, and the economic impact of voluntary separations in December 2007. “We’re pleased to be focusing on the future,” van Prooyen said. “The budget came through higher than expected. Next year looks promising, although we never know how the House and Senate will react.” He said that the self-selection program designed to reduce the number of employees at the laboratory had resulted in 430 employees volunteering to leave. An exit survey created by the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation and administered by the laboratory to those who were leaving showed that the economic impact of the voluntary separations would not be as severe as expected.Van Prooyen also spoke about the laboratory’s community involvement and the efforts the laboratory has made to communicate more with local and regional residents.“ We’re working hard to get the story out,” he said, citing the weekly “Los Alamos Report,” which now goes out to more than 1,400 stakeholders. The lab has also launched its own YouTube channel in an effort to get the message out to different audiences.In the question and answer session following van Prooyen’s talk, Councilor Nona Bowman asked van Prooyen to help in council’s efforts to attract more lab employees to live in the county.At Bowman’s request, Agenda Item 9A, a discussion of “how the council might engage with other entities including the laboratory regarding a shared vision of the community,” was postponed until May. Bowman suggested that the discussion could be improved by giving an opportunity to the council’s regional and federal committees and to other interested parties time to comment.West, who is now back at home after three back surgeries and several weeks in the hospital, was formally excused from his duties until his recovery is complete. “I hope that by this action we are reducing pressure on Councilor West so he doesn’t come back too soon,” Councilor Robert Gibson said. Council Chair Jim Hall said that he had talked to West earlier in the day. “The greatest pressure to get back in the harness comes from Councilor West,” he said.