Bill Brunner at Paonia Town Meeting

Bill Brunner, a former town trustee, speaks during the Aug. 24, 2021 Paonia Town Council meeting.

Paonia town council entertained a lengthy discussion on a proposed citizen’s initiative put forth by former trustee Bill Brunner and citizen Constantine Hirchfield.

Brunner told the council that the proposed initiative is meant to increase local government accountability by making records of the town’s infrastructure and finances public as well as giving citizens a method to take their grievances to municipal court.

As part of the discussion process and to avoid a costly special election the board did offer some concessions.

The board directed staff via a motion to do a CORA analysis for review during the second meeting in September. The report would consist of the processes for making all council emails available on the town’s website, to adopt ClearGov’s open checkbook program and make all unprotected infrastructure information available to the public.

“It seems that we need to get the report from staff then we can move forward on specific policies and ordinances,” recommended Mayor Mary Bachran.

The initiative would also give trustees broad access to examine all the records of the town; all CORA requests by residents of Paonia without cost to the requester and giving citizens the right to challenge the town, town officials and town ordinances in municipal court.

Policy on when the town would or would not charge for CORA requests was also discussed. Brunner said the citizen’s initiative is meant to make a distinction between what is a public document and materials that need a CORA request.

“One of the intentions here is to take away the intimidation of making a CORA request for stuff about infrastructure and finance. And believe me it’s an intimidating thing making CORA requests for records,” Brunner said.

Town Attorney Bo Nerlin questioned whether or not citizens could use the municipal courts to challenge the town’s ordinances. Brunner said his intent was to make it more reasonable for citizens to move potential costly legal issues from the District Court to the town’s less costly municipal court.

With no further official actions taken on the matter the meeting moved to other topics; however, it is expected that town council will continue to hold further discussion on the proposed initiative.

It didn’t take long for Paonia trustees to approve two new ordinances amending the town’s code during its Aug. 24 meeting.

On fourth review and second reading town trustees unanimously passed an ordinance amending the town’s code on reducing the distance from 500 feet to 350 feet for select liquor licenses. Retail liquor stores are exempt from the ordinance and must adhere to the state law of 500 feet from schools.

The ordinance reduces the distance between alcohol licensed businesses requiring on site consumption and public or parochial schools as well as the principal campus of any college, university, or seminary. The ordinance also allows the town to approve bed and breakfast permits that provide complimentary alcohol beverages as well as reduce the required distance from schools to 350 feet.

Trustees also approved on second reading an ordinance that amends the municipal code in regards to licenses and taxation of medical and retail marijuana stores. The measure was necessary to “clean-up” the town code following the adoption of previous ordinances related to the November 2020 election approving marijuana stores in Paonia.

Council appointed five members to the Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals. The volunteer board will deal with issues or concerns with the town’s building department and zoning decisions. Trustees approved Steven Clisset, Gia Fanelli, Ian Oeser, Suzanna Watson and Zuzanna Tauvinkl. Four of the appointed live in town and another individual, Tauvinkl lives out of town.

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