Town Waltzes with Jay Batra

By: Bill Whaley
8 May, 2017

Bellis, Barrone, Batra, and Lukes

Back-Door Hotel Deals

Email Excerpts:

Feb. 6, 2016
Pavel Lukes, realtor agent on the Batra Four Story Hotel Deal to DBarrone@taosgov.com (the non-resident Mayor of Taos)

“Dan,
As you well know a campaign costs money and even though I am running mean and lean, some funds are required. I am asking to reciprocate my generosity at the outset of your campaign. Your generosity will be kept confidential just a (sic)_mine was, Thank you, Pavel.”

March 31, 2015: Town Manager Bellis to Jay Batra, Hotel Developer

“I believe that ideally, if you could have a very preliminary site plan showing the parcel and proposed footprint of the building and parking area, as well an architect or artist’s rendering of the proposed 3-story and this 4-story prototype, it would be extremely helpful and I believe that we could have a quick and inexpensive preliminary answer for you.”

June 1, 2016

Jay Batra to Lynda Perry (Town Grant Writer)

“We closed on Don Fernando, Yesterday and thus would really be needing your support [CDBG Grant] as the property is in very rough condition.”

October, 11, 2016, Taos News

“At a public meeting Oct. 4, Town Manager…Bellis said the town was not involved in the grant approval process and did not directly to encourage Batra to bid on the Don Fernando property as part of a bankruptcy court process: “We were on the other side of the curtain, so to speak,” Bellis said. “We would have done this for any developer.”

Taos Friction obtained the excerpts above from emails and posts emails in full at the adjacent story, The Emails. The emails detail how the Town has supported and nourished Jay Batra as developer of the proposed four story hotel on the Southside and how the Town has aided and abetted renovating the Don Fernando property with taxpayer dough.

In effect the Town is helping an out-of-town developer compete with longtime local operators in the hospitality sector. Meanwhile the democratic process has been short-circuited while the town has approved an ordinance for “spot-zoning,” an ordinance voted for by P&Z Commissioner Pavel Lukes, agent for the developer.

As “Nervous Jervis” said so long ago in anticipating a vote on the Walmart Superstore project, “The Fix is in.” Except in those days, Manager “Slick Gus” Cordova, Mayors “Father Fred” Peralta, and Bobby Duran did not ignore the people. They responded to surveys and the Council; Mayor Bobby Duran broke the tie and voted down the Big Box and the town fought the Big Kachina Casino.

Before there were public meetings or stories in the local press, Batra and Bellis have been two stepping, while Lukes and Barrone shadow danced. KCEC’s CEO Luis Reyes and Andrew Gonzales supported the project, despite the more than 3000 local residents, who opposed the project. Similarly the Town supported the recent KCEC rate increase and retroactive billing charges by ignoring the public hearing process, a process that has cost local merchants a bundle in higher electricity rates. But the Mayor got his Christmas tree lights.

Now it appears that the Town will force the four-story behemoth on the community, an anti-cultural view-breaker that transforms the beauty, history, and funky authentic character of Taos into the style of the corporate cookie cutter culture. There may be short-term gains but long-term losses as marginal motels up and down the Paseo close like the empty storefronts that now infect the historic district.

Elections for Mayor and Council will take place in early 2018. Barrone and Hahn have an upward hill to climb while more than 3000 residents plus wait on top the hill with pitchforks. Barrone does not live in the town and Hahn does not walk the talk: he misrepresented the values of “small business” he once held when he got in office.

Photo ops do not count when integrity and ethics have been burned up in the fires of expediency. Taosenos, despite the popularity of Trumpism, have little use for trumpettes, local pols who defy the people’s will. The Town, alas, appears to be following in the wake of the Coop as they coddle outside interests at the expense of the locals, who pay the bills and vote.

As Frank Concha, Taos Pueblo wise man and activist, said during the Kachina Casino fight to the B&B crowd in the summer of 1999, “It’s your town, fight for it.”

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