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Hotchkiss council grants variances for hospital clinic

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Photo by Tamie Meck Hotchkiss trustees eye plans for a medical clinic to be built at 230 E. Hotchkiss Avenue by the Delta County Memorial Hospital. The council granted variances relating to parking and signage at its Sept. 8 meeting.

After making a recent trip to Monticello, the historic home of Thomas Jefferson, Hotchkiss Mayor Wendell Koontz opened the Sept. 8 meeting with two quotes attributed to the third U.S. president, founding father and principal author of the Declaration of Independence.

"When angry, count to 10 before you speak. If very angry, count to 100."

"When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on."

"As applicable now as it was then," said Koontz.

Following a public hearing, council voted unanimously to grant two variances to Delta County Memorial Hospital related to its new medical clinic to be built at 230 E. Hotchkiss Avenue.

The first variance would allow DCMH to exclude a 1,200-square-foot storage area, to be built on the second floor of the nearly 10,000 square foot facility, from town code requiring one parking space for every 200 square feet of building area. Project architect Tom Chamberlain said that if parking is based on the square footage of the main floor, the parking requirement works for the space they have. They are required to provide 54 parking spaces with the space; when not included in the calculations, the number drops to 48.

The second floor is simply storage space and will not result in any more people being in the building at any given time, said Chamberlain. "We're asking for that area to not be counted in that calculation."

The second request allows placement of a monument sign, measuring roughly four to five feet high and eight feet wide when installed, to be located slightly within the town right of way, which would allow for better visibility from the street. Chamberlain said he understands that this has been allowed in the past, "So long as the applicant provides insurance for that sign, which we will provide."

The sign will be placed inside the sidewalk along Hotchkiss Avenue. In response to trustee concerns, Chamberlain showed on the architectural plans where the sign will be placed and assured the town it will not affect snowplowing efforts, since it will not stick out onto the street. Planners want to allow for good visibility of the sign and still allow for landscaping. No utility lines are or will be located beneath the sign.

Public Works Director Mike Owens expressed concern about visibility for cars exiting the parking lot. It will not block the view, said Chamberlain. If cars parked on the street block visibility, "that's a separate visibility issue."

No public comment was offered during the hearing, and the Hotchkiss Planning Commission recommends approval of the variances. Trustee Tom Wills, a member of the planning commission, called both requests "exceptions" rather than "variances." A variance is an exceptional situation created by special circumstances, he said. In this case, planners could address the issues in their plans. The parking issue does point out "that our off-street requirements are too stringent for this particular use," he said. Approval will set a precedent, but the ordinance should be changed, he said.

Chamberlain said construction bids are going out soon. "It's probably going to be a fall and winter project, and hopefully be open in the spring."

Trustees also unanimously approved Resolution 2016-03 to sponsor the Delta County Fire Protection District #4, Hotchkiss Fire District, should it purchase insurance through the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA). Marshal Dan Miller, representing the HFD, said the district is looking into insurance options, including CIRSA. The district has been preparing the application for about six months. Miller assured trustees that the resolution will not cost the town money or create a liability.

"We have no issues whatsoever" with the resolution, said town attorney Bo Nerlin, whose office reviewed the draft. When asked by Mayor Koontz if other municipalities pass similar resolutions, Nerlin said he can't say for certain, but agrees that passage does not create a liability for the town.

Trustees also unanimously passed Ordinance 2016-03, granting a franchise to Black Hills Gas Distribution LLC, doing business as Black Hills Energy and formerly known as SourceGas Distribution LLC. Paul Ficklin with Black Hills was present to answer questions.

In her Downtown Improvement Committee report, trustee Mary Hockenberry said the committee spent $799 on improvements this year. The committee is responsible for the planters and other artful features located mainly along Bridge Street's downtown core. The Hotchkiss Area Chamber of Commerce also generously pitched in $400, said Hockenberry, who has done most of the committee's work in recent years. The volunteer base is also beginning to expand, she said.

Wills, who also serves on the committee, said members are working with the planning committee to review the town's Downtown Improvement Plan in anticipation of the Master Plan update scheduled for 2017. He suggested that the town's Park Policy be included in the master plan.

Council also heard a presentation from North Fork Ambulance executive director Kathy Steckel. NFA is entering its annual membership drive. The largely volunteer service has 50 volunteers, serves a 1,500 square mile area and answers about 700 calls per year. Last year the organization was able to reduce their deficit from $190,000 to $40,000 through grants, annual memberships, and donations added to membership fees, said Steckel.

Having stations in each of the three communities means the best response time possible, but continuing that level of service will take money, said Steckel. If they were to create a special taxing district, convert to a paid staff and maintain the same level of service, the annual cost would be more than $1 million.

Membership mailings are going out this week. "Look for it, talk about it, put it on social media, and let's generate some interest," said Steckel.

Mayor Koontz opened sealed bids on two surplus town-owned vehicles. The high bid on an 2004 Impala was $1,417, and a 1989 Chevy S10 Durango pickup went for $200.

Trustees approved a special event liquor license application for the North Fork Valley Creative Coalition annual Celebrate the Fork fundraiser dinner on Oct. 1 at Heritage Hall. Attendees will purchase tickets for their drinks and will verify they are 21 or over when they exchange their tickets, said NFVCC representative Dave Mitchell. Hotchkiss is the only North Fork area town to be a paid member of the coalition. Mayor Koontz asked if the town, could set up a booth and sell Town of Hotchkiss T-shirts. They were designed by Deputy Chad Lloyd with the Hotchkiss Marshal's office, he added.

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