A Cedaredge planning commission hearing on a rezoning request became a rambling, two-hour-long forum for personality conflicts and finger pointing on Jan. 7.
At one point in the meeting, planning commission member, former mayor Bill Miller, finally stepped in and admonished his colleagues that their hearing was making personal "references to the applicant, not to the zoning, and I don't think that's appropriate."
Bob Michael's advice to fellow commission members that "The issue here is the zoning, not (the applicant's) past code violations" was hardly able to keep the discussion on the planning track.
Eric Backman's new business plan for a used car lot at 415 S. Grand Mesa Drive drew criticism from planners for the size of the lot, for lack of information about various easements and utility accesses, for "conflicts with the town master plan," and for whether there was even a "compelling reason" to rezone the property as required for Backman's business use.
The personal exchanges began early in the hearing as Town Administrator Katie Sickles called former code enforcement officer Karla Sanborn to provide testimony. Sanborn's remarks did not involve the zoning question before the commission. Rather, she recounted a series of code enforcement encounters she had with Backman over his various rental properties during her town service dating from 2007 to 2012.
Sanborn concluded by advising the planning commission that if approved, "strict code enforcement" should be applied to Backman's project.
Sickles added remarks of her own during the meeting about Backman's prior code enforcement issues with the town. At other points in the hearing, Backman answered back with personal jabs of his own. "Katie (Sickles) is against me for some reason," he said.
Planning commission member Dave Blanchette noted that he was troubled by "the applicant's past history." He twice charged Backman with "misleading" the planning commission by submitting a drawing of his project that was "not to scale," and by having names of non-town residents on a petition of support.
There were comments allowed at the meeting from two non-town residents who are neighboring property owners. They didn't oppose Backman's business plan. The planning packet given to commission members contained one letter of opposition to Backman and his business plan from a resident of Delta.
Blanchette also defended Sickles during the session, saying she was enforcing regulations.
Sickles denied that she personally opposed the plan and said that the town staff's concerns "are with the applicant and the location."
The question of a previous gas station use of the property was raised. It should have been grandfathered in as that use and zoning (the same zoning Backman was asking for) in 2010 when Cedaredge adopted zoning. But Sickles said that the property had not been in that use as far back as 2006.
The personal exchanges continued and included Sickles questioning the sincerity of Backman's motivation seeking the rezone request. Noting the property had been a service station previously, Backman said he thought the property was "zoned right" when he bought it.
But Sickles countered saying, "He (Backman) knew we had rules. That's why we brought Karla (Sanborn) in," adding at another point, "It was clear the applicant knew the town had zoning when he bought (the property)."
There were various suggestions offered during the meeting for ways of accommodating Backman's business plan including a variance or a conditional use permit. Sickles said that neither was allowed.
There was a suggestion that Backman's used car lot be called something other than what it would be, such as a "specialty store," in order to comply with what is allowed in the property's current B-1 zoning classification.
Planning commission members prior to their unanimous vote to deny Backman's rezone had tried to console Backman with suggestions that he operate his business as a "brokerage" with no on-site inventory to display. But the town's zoning requires specific zoning for "vehicle sales."
The planning commission's denial of the rezone request is a recommendation to the town trustees. Backman has the option of going forward with his rezone application and seeking approval from the town board.blog comments powered by Disqus