Council reduces proposed size of advisory group

By Don Nelson

With a few minor changes, the Winthrop Town Council has endorsed a recommendation by the Planning Commission to form a committee that will review the Westernization ordinance’s regulations for solar arrays in the W-3 zone.

The council decided to reduce the size of the ad hoc committee out of concern that it might become too unwieldy.

Mayor Sally Ranzau said she had been talking to potential committee members including Teri Parker, a Planning Commission member, and Rita Kenny, co-owner of Winthrop Mountain Sports. The Planning Commission recommended that the committee include one member of the commission and one town council member, two members from the Westernization Design Review Board, two people with alternative energy expertise, and two citizen representatives.

The council decided to decrease the number of committee members from two to one in all those categories, but will increase council representation to two members.

The Planning Commission’s recommendation came after the commission held a public hearing on a request, brought to the town council by Ellen Lamiman and Cara Godwin, to amend the Westernization ordinance to more broadly allow solar panels in the W-3 zone.

Currently, the ordinance would allow such an array if it were not visible from Highway 20, but prohibits solar installations if they could be viewed from other public rights-of-way.

The town’s Westernization Design Review Board (WDRB) reviewed the request earlier and unanimously recommended that the council reject the ordinance amendment proposal. After hearing informal public comments supporting and opposing the amendment, the council referred the request to the planning commission for consideration.

The Planning Commission recommended that the ad hoc committee should be expected to return a recommendation for action to the Town Council within three months, and work toward drafting a recommendation within six months.

In other business, the council agreed to pursue a lease agreement with Tim and Sue Otonicar for property at the east end of the town limits, where a covered wagon that is now on the property will be part of a Western-themed welcoming scenario for westbound Highway 20 traffic.

Kristen Smith, the town’s marketing director, said the project is funded by hotel/motel funds the town collects, and which must be used for tourism marketing purposes. She said the site will eventually include a welcoming sign, no-trespassing signage, and a barn-like structure over the covered wagon to protect it from the elements year-round.

Smith said the Otonicars have asked that a liability clause, absolving them from liability for whatever might happen on the site, be part of the lease agreement. They also asked that their attorney be allowed to draw up the clause, and then be reimbursed for the work.

Smith said the plan originally included turnouts from Highway 20 so visitors could stop and take pictures, but that’s not possible because there are conservation easements on each side of the road.

The covered wagon alone is having the desired effect of slowing traffic down as it enters town, Smith said.

The council agreed to pay for legal fees of up to $1,000 to be included in the first year’s lease. After that, the town will pay the Otonicars $1 year. Smith said the approved budget for the project is $75,000, but the town should not expect to pay nearly that much.

In more business:

• The council moved its scheduled July 4 meeting to July 3, at 7 p.m. in the Hen House Room at the Winthrop Barn, to avoid conflicting with the Fourth of July holiday.

• The council heard from Ranzau that the town is interviewing a “really good” candidate to fill the position vacated by the recent retirement of Public Works Superintendent Rick Karro. Town Clerk Michelle Gaines reported that two candidates to fill a vacant deputy marshal position will be scheduled for oral interviews as soon as is practical.

• The council re-appointed council member Ben Nelson to serve as mayor pro tem in Ranzau’s absence.

• Ranzau announced that Steve Oulman, a WDRB member who was the main author of the Westernization code update adopted by the Town Council in May 2017, has resigned from that board. She called Oulman’s departure a “huge loss.” Cascades Outdoor Store co-owner Brian Sweet resigned from the WDRB earlier, so there are vacancies to be filled, Ranzau said.