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Trustee, former mayor defend local business

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Former mayor and former Crawford business owner Jim Crook took exception to a proposed resolution under consideration by the Crawford Town Council last week; Trustee Chris Johnson shared his concerns. The council has been working since August toward adoption of Resolution No. 7, 2017, which sets forth conditions on the operations of Peaches RV Park, owned by Carl and Cheryl Page.

Crook began by reminding the trustees that their job was to leave their personal prejudices and judgements at home and do what's best for the town, and for the people of the town. With that in mind, he questioned why the town felt it was appropriate to dictate terms of operation to a business. He was referring to some very specific parts of the resolution, which is written to address specifically the RV park -- not all businesses operating within the town. His point: no other business in town has had similar conditions put in place by resolution of the town council. "I don't know of another business in town that is dictated to in this respect," he said. "I don't think this is a fair thing to do."

Specifically, the resolution dictates that the Pages' customers may only camp for 10 days maximum, the Pages can only operate their business from June 1 through Sept. 30, and the Pages are required to report park usage to the town clerk each month. "I never gave a report to the town the whole time I had a business, and I don't know of anybody else who has to do that," he said. "This whole thing is getting out of hand. It seems to me like you're singling out one person," he told the council.

Mayor Wanda Gofforth took exception to that. She told Crook that the Pages' attorney and the town's attorney worked together to draft the resolution, and that the specifics Crook mentioned came at the request of the Pages, via their attorney. The stipulation of monthly reporting was added by the town so they could more closely monitor potential waste dumping into the town's sewer system. "It has nothing to do with Carl Page personally," Gofforth said. "It has to do with business between Peaches RV and the town."

"I talked to Mr. Page and I'm under the impression he does not approve of this ordinance," said Trustee Chris Johnson. "In fact, he was angry." Johnson also alluded to a letter received by the council from the Pages attorney that said the couple was surprised this was still an issue. "As far as they were concerned this was resolved three years ago," he said.

The issue with utility service at the park dates back to 2014. At that time, the Pages were granted a variance by the council, which allowed them to use one of their two residential taps to provide water to the RV sites, which constitutes a commercial use. The town began billing the Pages commercial water rates, which they have paid the past three years. The Pages were also required to fulfil other requirements under that agreement. "Those were all, to my memory, satisfied," said public works director Bruce Bair at last week's meeting.

However, that council, nor any council since, followed through and officially adopted that 2014 resolution. Gofforth said when the error was discovered by researching old meeting minutes, the town wanted to complete the issue, which is where the new resolution comes in. But Trustee Johnson disagreed with the new ordinance altogether. There was nothing in the original resolution that specified dates of operation, number of allowable camp days, or the mandatory reporting, he said. "I'm seeing a resolution that was sufficient three years ago," he said. "Everyone in town, in this room, the Pages - all were living under the assumption that this resolution was done. Everybody was under the assumption that this had been approved and signed. Now we've come and added stuff to it."

The issue unfortunately got dropped, the mayor replied.

"Who's fault is that? It's the town's fault," Johnson replied. "Why were the Pages never told this was not passed? For three years?"

"They never came back to us, either. They knew this was in the process. So there is plenty of blame to go around," Gofforth replied. She related to the council that the town's attorney, Jim Brown, recommended passage of the resolution, even though the Pages nor their attorney were in attendance, and then if the Pages wanted to amend the ordinance they could come before council and make the request. "And that way it's done," she said. In addition, the town is going to write an ordinance that will cover all RV park operations within the town, that way "it won't look like we're picking on Peaches RV. We don't have any intention of that," she said.

Johnson, however, did not want to pass the resolution. He asked the issue be tabled until the Pages and their attorney could be present to discuss the issue. "It is not fair to either of those parties to pass this without them having a public say in it," he said. "All we're doing is opening a huge can of worms. No one in this room will be affected if we wait another month. It's not going to hurt anybody, but it is going to show that we're going to work with them and make sure that this happens properly. I am not going to rubber stamp this when I have him telling me he doesn't approve of this. It's not fair. It is not fair to Carl Page."

Gofforth reiterated that the last resolution did not pass because the Pages did not return to the council meetings in 2014 to discuss the issues then. "We've had constant delays on this," she said. "This is what happened in 2014, the constant delays of the Pages not attending meetings, and it dropped through the cracks. We're having this same thing happen here." She asked what the council would do if they did indeed table the issue until the October meeting, and the Pages or their attorney didn't attend. Trustee John Paton replied, "Then negate the whole thing. This is something he has to resolve with the council. Just tell him if he doesn't show up, end of discussion." When town clerk Cally Gallegos clarified what he meant by "whole thing" he indicated he would like to see the original variance rescinded. "This is getting expensive and ridiculous," Paton said.

Later in the meeting, under Board Member Reports, Johnson cautioned the mayor and his fellow trustees to think before they act. "There are a lot of tensions in town. There is some animosity out there," he said. "I would just really highly recommend we slow down on some things and make sure we're not doing stuff just for the sake of doing stuff. We do have watchdogs out there. I've talked to them - and sometimes they're right." He encouraged his fellow trustees to talk with people in town, especially those they don't agree with. "Even if they put signs up," he said. "Respect goes both ways. I would encourage the mayor to slow down on some things a little bit and let's talk some things out."

"With these lies and propaganda that are all over this town, it's tough for us to deal with," Trustee Paton replied.

The Peaches RV resolution was tabled for another month.

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