Community Development department asks residents for thoughts on town's future at forum



AZTEC — Local residents offered their ideas Tuesday night on how to encourage tourists to stop here rather than simply passing through town on their way to larger cities.

The Community Development department invited residents to attend Tuesday's public forum.

Aztec is located at the junction of two well-traveled highways. Many people driving to Durango, Colo., from Farmington or to Albuquerque from Durango will pass through the city, residents noted.

Candy Coury, the owner of an antique store called Packrats, said the city needs to feel welcoming when people travel through Aztec using either U.S. Highway 550 or N.M. Highway 516. 

"If you're going to make the downtown successful, it's got to be a tourist trap," she said.

Commissioner Katee McClure, who was the sole city commissioner in attendance, said Aztec has a lot of outdoors attractions, including mountain biking trails, the Animas River and Aztec Ruins National Monument. She said she would like to see more signs letting visitors know how they can get to local attractions such as the Alien Run mountain bike trails and Riverside Park.

Aztec resident and horticulturist Kevin Lombard asked about Sunday liquor sales. Aztec does not allow restaurants to serve glasses of alcohol on Sundays. Lombard, who works closely with Wines of the San Juan, said Sunday is often the busiest day for restaurants that sell alcohol.

Community development director Steven Saavedra acknowledged that a city ordinance prevents some restaurants that rely on Sunday alcohol sales from locating in Aztec.

Before the ban on Sunday liquor sales can be lifted, registered voters who live in Aztec must petition to have it placed on a ballot. Saavedra said a municipal election scheduled for March could serve as an opportunity to vote on the idea if enough signatures can be collected.

Saavedra said the Tuesday meeting was an opportunity for representatives of the department to introduce themselves to the community and to get ideas from residents.

He presented plans for the North Main Avenue extension project that will connect the downtown district with Aztec Ruins National Monument. He also discussed the city's comprehensive plan, which was created in 2002. Saavedra said Aztec will need to redo the plan, and he encouraged people to offer their input during the process.

"If I work on it and nobody's involved, it's going to be my plan, and that's not how it should be," Saavedra said.

He said the department will present more community forums. Saavedra said during the next meeting, residents will be able to put their ideas on a map of the city.

"No idea's going to be a foolish idea," he said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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