Like it or not, like many other small towns, Paonia is expected to grow in the coming years as more and more people discover the area's agriculture, food and wine, recreational opportunities, educational opportunities, and budding arts community.
The Town of Paonia would like to have some control over that growth. With developable land within town boundaries scarce, that growth is likely to occur outside of the existing town boundaries, said town administrator Ken Knight. The commercial downtown core is considered fully developed, and there is a lack of inventory for "starter homes" to accommodate young families moving to the area.
Growth is already knocking at the door. The town has been approached about one possible major development just beyond town limits, and is aware of other commercial and residential developments in the works. In 2019, said Knight, the Paonia Planning Commission, which in recent years has met once or twice a year, will begin meeting monthly.
If the business corridor is to expand, the most likely direction is outward beyond the existing town limits. If the town is to have any control over that development, plan for essential services, and ensure that growth is reasonable and consistent with the character of the community, it needs to act now.
What makes the most sense, said Knight, is to direct development outward toward Highway 133.
The idea isn't new. After more than two years of working closely with Delta County, an advisory committee of in- and out-of-town residents, and multiple public meetings, in 2010 the town adopted the "Highway 133 Corridor Master Plan" (the Plan). A policy document for Paonia and Delta County to use in considering specific land use and development proposals, the plan identifies a course of action for addressing future growth and development outside of existing town boundaries while maintaining the area's rural agricultural setting.
The plan identifies two main corridors that can have "a direct influence on future growth, economic vitality, and Paonia's small-town character." Area A includes Grand Avenue northwest to Highway 133 on Samuel Wade Road, Clock, Price and Stahl roads, and Highway 133 southwest to the Redwood Arms Motel; and northwest from Grand Avenue to the highway.
For commercial development, Samuel Wade Road "makes sense," said Knight. The Paonia Soil Company, West Elk Wine & Spirits, and Stop and Save are located within the area. The town sewer line already extends along Stahl Road to the sewer plant, and engineering and plans for extending water and sewer services are in place, but funding isn't.
Looking at the Grand Avenue corridor, the Colorado Transportation Department property is zoned industrial, but the Paonia River Park and Museum and North Fork Mobile Home Park, both located within the county, and annexed Paonia Junior-Senior High School land make the corridor more appealing for residential growth, said Knight.
The plan looks beyond those corridors by identifying "Area B," extending to both sides of Highway 133 northeast to Black Bridge Road and southwest to Delicious Orchards.
Once planning areas contiguous with town boundaries are identified, the town plans to work with Delta County and other entities to create a three-mile development plan, said Knight. Eventually the town will also need to identify planning areas in the Minnesota Creek, Mathews Lane and Black Bridge areas, said Knight. "Those will not likely to be 'one-size-fits-all' plans."
Because Delta County has no zoning laws in place, in updating the Comprehensive Plan, the town will need to work closely with county representatives to require development close to town limits to be built under the town's zoning code, said Knight. Eventually, that requirement could extend to the three-mile zone.
The town is also planning for annexation of enclaves -- pockets of unincorporated parcels surrounded by incorporated land. Under Colorado statute, enclaves can be annexed by ordinance once they have been surrounded by town property for three years. Parcels having more than one-sixth of the lot line contiguous with the existing town boundary are also eligible for annexation. The town is also interested in annexing other properties contiguous with town boundaries, among them the Paonia River Park. A big benefit, for the park and for other properties, said Knight, is that it would allow the Paonia Police Department to patrol the area and respond to calls without assistance from the Delta County Sheriff's Office.
As more annexation occurs, more properties become eligible for annexation. However, said Knight, the town can't annex any properties for which it cannot provide sewer and water and other town services.
The town also has 41 pre-annexations agreements in place, with at least one eligible for immediate annexation, said Knight.
One detail the town must tend to before moving forward with annexation, said Knight, is revising and updating the 1996 Comprehensive Plan. As part of that process, the planning commission will work this year on drafting a chapter on planning. The town is also looking into hiring an intern to help with updating the plan.