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Former Paonia trustee critical of duplex approval

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Photo by Tamie Meck A duplex located on Paonia's 3rd Street should never have been approved, according to a former town trustee and P&Z member, who alleges the building's front steps do not comply with code, and that the drop off at the sidewalk edge and

As the Town of Paonia considers updating its building codes, two citizens brought to the board complaints about the town's ability to enforce the existing code.

A former town trustee, planning and zoning commissioner and certified building inspector accused town administrator Ken Knight for disregarding both zoning and building ordinances in approving a Third Street duplex.

Addressing the board during the "Visitors" section at the April 23 meeting, Curtis Foster said the duplex, located at 207 3rd street and zoned C-2 Commercial, was approved with complete disregard for town zoning laws and is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Speaking during the visitor portion of the meeting, Foster said the duplex's two front steps extend beyond the 12 inches allowed under code and create a tripping hazard for pedestrians.

Reading from a prepared statement, Foster said a multiple dwelling stand-alone building in a C- zone requires a special review before the Planning and Zoning Commission, notification of neighboring property owners, and subsequent action by the board.

"I'd like to see the minutes from that meeting," said Foster.

Referring to the International Building Code, he said the front steps protruding onto the public right of way create "a major public safety hazard" for pedestrians, and for people exiting the units. In addition, a trench in the alley creates a hazard for both pedestrians and cars.

Foster also asked if the owner was required to purchase water and sewer taps, and if so, one or two, how the town handles water/sewer and trash billing, and questioned the resulting off-street parking. Listing other apparent problems associated with the property, Foster asked, "Is the town setting a precedence here?"

The duplex is part of the two-unit commercial building at 237 and 239 Grand Ave., owned by Treehouse Properties LLC, according to Delta County property records, and occupied by DC Hawkins Insurance and Heart of the Dragon.

The duplex was approved under Section 16-3-70 of the town zoning code, which permits by right the addition of dwelling units in zones C-1 and C-2, secondary to use of a business. The zoning section, which previously required dwellings secondary to a business use in C-1 and C-2 districts to undergo a special review process, was amended by the board by a 4-2 vote in August 2016.

Then town manager Jane Berry said the amendment would allow businesses to have a residence in their commercial property "to assist them in sustaining their business" and "would eliminate the existing cumbersome and expensive requirement of a Special Review application and process for dwelling units as a part of a business use."

Because the issue was not on the agenda -- which Foster said he'd attempted to do, but was ignored, Mayor Charles Stewart limited discussion, and gave Knight an opportunity to respond.

"Unfortunately, there are many inaccuracies to Mr. Foster's statement," said Knight. Because the duplex is tied to the corner property, no special review was required. The duplex was formerly an office and residence, said Knight. Once the board changed the code in 2016, residential as a secondary use was allowed. "At the time this approval happened it was within the administrator's purview."

Stewart received no response when suggesting that trustees motion to have the issue placed on a future agenda.

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