Taos: Barrone & Bellis Use Bait and Switch Tactics

By: Bill Whaley
25 May, 2017

Mayor Barrone and Manager Bellis of Taos have been playing bait and switch with developer Jay Batra and the Citizens. John Le Carre’s George Smiley might call it, a form of “bribery and blackmail”…all this according to emails obtained by Flavio and Flavia.

Basically the “B&Bers” persuaded developer Jay Batra to substitute a four-story Holiday Inn for a three-story proposal with the “promise” of a half-million dollar grant if he also rescued and repaired the former Holiday Inn, i.e. Don Fernando from foreclosure. Bellis re-assured Batra that he would march the sky-breaking view-sundering four-story structure through a compliant P&Z process. To wit, Bellis and his side kick, the deep-throated but limited Louis Feinberg (what’s “massing”?) at Town Planning prepared in advance a “hotel-overlay zone” in order to bypass the height limit, all done prior to discussion i.e. as a “fiat” or “fait accompli.” The people don’t count. This is not a democracy.

Course Bellis and Barrone conspired with the ethically-challenged realtor-developer Pavel Lukes, a member of the P&Zers and agent provocateur for Batra et al v. the people. On May 18 (watch the tape on the town webstie) the four musketeers above turned the project over to the poseur, Mr. Pomposity, a poor imitation of Cardinal Richlieu, one Jim Pollard, a longtime contractor and builder associated with public projects (like fellow P&Zer Doug Patterson) and Lukes, himself, of course. Talk about a stacked deck. Pollard, in his confusion, used and abused all and sundry during the meeting, confusing fact and fiction or faction and friction during the follies.

Two protesters referred to the “demise of democracy” and the “shameful process.” Some pro-hotel types called the loyal opposition members of “CAVE” (Citizens against virtually everything), a tactic often used by developers with blighted vocabularies, like those who turn in a pinch to cuss words. So Pollard called the Cops, Trump-style, on a rather mild mannered crowd, a crowd with whom he argued, interrupted at will, and variously dismissed in high-handed style. One local art dealer damn near cried on the stand but Pollard was the problem.

The P&Zers unanimously recommended the sky-breaker go forward to the Town of Taos where, once again, the unruly process will debate the back-door double-dealing and a series of issues re: the four-story hotel’s site plan, including the “actual” height, LEED specifications, drainage plan, set-backs, the tortured view-shed, and the absence (as usual) of a “traffic plan.” (A letter from DOT is not a study.)

For now the lawyers are waiting: studying the facts and proposed conclusions of law. The voters wait to render a decision on the “tactics” of bait and switch. Mayor Barrone once claimed he lived on Zuni St. in town, not today. Counselor Hahn once claimed he supported “the people,” not the corporations. Bellis appears to be transitioning… in the wake of this or that celebrity. Batra has yet to confront his Taos employees as they triple in number (the Hampton Inn, Don Fernando, and Holiday Inn). Lukes has (probably) collected his commission but he has lost a few inches of integrity.

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