Land use

Agreement between county and city is welcome step toward future cooperation

The intergovernmental agreement approved Tuesday between La Plata County and the city of Durango is a limited and imperfect work, which is just fine. By its nature, compromise is a recognition that nobody gets all or exactly what they want.

At the same time, it also is an acknowledgement that it is important – crucial, really – that those two entities work together on issues that touch on both. That is the real and best meaning of what happened.

The agreement sets standards for the development of areas just outside the city that may be annexed into the city and that may be eligible for city services. The minutia centers on distances from the city limits, who may or may not want a property to be annexed and who could get city water and sewer.

The broader picture recognizes that in looking to the east, the city faces no natural boundaries. Absent some sort of cooperation between the city and county governments on land-use issues, the city continually would be faced with developments on its borders that may not meet city standards but that almost certainly would want city services at some point.

What happens is that some folks want to be near the city – for convenience, a shorter commute or closer shopping – but would rather not deal with city codes or regulations. As those areas further develop, however, pressure mounts for city services. Eventually, there is talk of annexation.

Having annexed the property for Mercy Regional Medical Center and the adjacent Three Springs neighborhood, the city now has no obvious stopping point for eastward expansion until Elmore’s Corner or even the Pine River. Few people would want or even imagine Durango expanding that far east, but without some clear limit, the question has to be: So, where will the city end?

The intergovernmental agreement sealed Tuesday does not decide that question or even address it. Nor did it need to; there is time for that.

What this agreement does establish, however, is a climate of cooperation and a mechanism for working together. If used as a basis for addressing future questions, that alone could have great value.

There was a time when the city and the county regarded each other with suspicion, even animosity, which was unproductive and unnecessary.

True, the city and the county are different entities with differing constituencies (although it is helpful to remember that city residents also live and vote in the county.) Any differences, however, are overshadowed by interests and concerns the two have in common.

This agreement points to a future that recognizes those overlapping questions and the need for shared solutions. Keep that in mind, and any details can be worked out over time.