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Pre-annexation agreement passes on split vote

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A pre-annexation agreement between the Town of Paonia and Andrew Thliveris was approved by a 3-2 vote, with trustees Bill Brunner and Chelsea Bookout casting dissenting votes. Trustee Suzanne Watson did not attend the meeting.

The Thliveris family plans to market local organic fruit and other products to the public at Berg Harvest, to be located in an existing building currently undergoing a remodel. Following the original motion to approve the agreement, Brunner made motions to add three amendments.

Brunner prefaced his motions by stating that he does not oppose the annexation. "There's a couple of issues that I think should be addressed." His first motion was to include "an express statement affirming the right of the town to re-zone the property in the future as the town may deem necessary," as suggested by the Colorado Municipal League; the second motion was that the building adhere to the town's building code and land development regulations as a condition of approval; and the third motion was that the town require as a condition of approval that the property be zoned "commercial" upon annexation.

"We are tripping over ourselves to do this in a big hurry so that we can be open to sell the first cherries that come off the tree," said Brunner of the annexation application, which was submitted to the town on April 5. Trustees voted unanimously to accept the application at the May 24 board meeting.

Brunner's first motion died for lack of a second. Town manager Jane Berry explained that zoning is being handled through the annexation process as per Colorado Revised Statutes, specifically Section 31-12-115, "Zoning of Land While Annexation is Under Way." The town's Planning Commission will also review zoning and make recommendations to the board.

The town is recommending a change of zoning to "Developing Resource District," which covers parcels that are agricultural in use at the time of annexation. The option, said Berry, was created by town leaders "many decades ago... knowing that the town was surrounded and bordered by existing orchards and farms that at some point in time could wind up being annexed to the town." That process doesn't need additional requirements and is covered by the town's Land Development Regulations. "The farm stand is a value-added benefit to the existing orchard and farm," said Berry. "This project is all about agriculture, first and foremost."

As for the town's right to rezone the property in the future, the current wording, said Brunner, does not reaffirm that.

"The town always has the right to rezone any parcel of property within the town of Paonia at any time in the future," said Berry. It's also a right of the property owner to request a rezoning of their property, and the same process would apply, noted Berry.

Bookout said her concern is that a similar business located one block away is zoned commercial. "If it's only selling fruit and things that are grown on that property, that's one thing. But if they're selling baked goods and coffee and things like that that are being sold a block away, I think that would be a little unfair."

The second motion failed, 2-3, with Brunner and Bookout voting in favor. Berry explained that the applicants agreed to comply with town code as of May 24 when trustees voted to accept the application. In addition, said Berry, the family has been working with town staff for months and has met with the town building inspector to ensure they are building to town codes and specifications.

The third motion was withdrawn by Brunner.

Since the application is coupled with an application for zoning and will be handled through the zoning process, noted trustee William Bear, "The zoning issue will be the subject of a quasi-judicial hearing and subject to discussion and presentation of evidence at that time."

The Thliveris family requires domestic water and sewer service in order to operate their business and has been approved for water and sewer taps. Trustees voted to reset the public hearing for the application to Tuesday, July 26.

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