At the July 9 town board meeting, Paonia trustees voted unanimously to consider an emergency ordinance that, in part, would put strict regulations on formula businesses -- those businesses similar or the same in every detail regardless of location.
Paonia resident Thomas Markle came before the board to propose an ordinance amending the town's zoning laws, to include language specific to formula businesses. A regular attendee of town meetings, Markle said he's never before requested to be on an agenda. But after learning in early July that a Dollar General store was proposed on Samuel Wade Road just outside of Paonia town limits, he took action.
Markle was backed by some 100 citizens --most waiting almost two hours as trustees tended to other business, and remaining until after 10 p.m. to hear the board's decision. In a 10-minute speech interspersed with exuberant cheers, he called dollar stores a "cancer" and "an extractive industry that will suck the lifeblood out of the town."
Markle spoke of the detrimental effects dollar stores have on small, rural communities, how they produce one-35th of the tax revenue that mixed commercial use economies like Paonia's generate, and how they "can withstand years of losses while local businesses slowly close down." Don's Market, he said, "would last about three years." Once opened, "all the benefits go to investors, not communities."
The board also voted to accept an annexation petition for the "Stahl Addition," submitted by Fort Worth-based Vaquero Paonia Partners, LP, and adoption of a resolution initiating the annexation proceedings. They requested a C-2 commercial zoning designation for the property. Vaquero recently published a request for bids for a 9,100-square-foot "ground up Dollar General" in Paonia.
Both items were approved, but approval only begins the "complex" process of annexation, explained town administrator Ken Knight. It does not create an agreement to annex the property. The Paonia Planning Commission is scheduled to review the annexation petition on July 31.
Markle also requested a moratorium on formula businesses until the ordinance is approved. "Time is of the essence," he said.
Markle said he understands "this a huge complicated matter. That's why I requested a moratorium."
The draft ordinance will come before the board at the regular July 23 meeting. If it meets the requirements for an emergency ordinance in that it protects the health, safety and general welfare of citizens, the board will vote to hold a special meeting to conduct a public hearing on the ordinance. That meeting is tentatively set for Aug. 1. If adopted, the ordinance would go into effect immediately.