Town opens door to Family Dollar

Board drops moratorium
on large businesses

The town board recently opened the door to Family Dollar and similar businesses by voting to allow the moratorium on businesses greater than 5,000 square feet to expire in June. But new businesses will have to adhere to extensive design guidelines.

The town trustees passed two laws at the April 23 board meeting that revised the land-use code and created design guidelines meant to ensure new buildings will capture the western character of Mancos. The trustees also created a board that will review designs.

The guidelines address lighting, parking lots, building siding, roof lines, windows and many other details. The town trustees intend for the design review board to be staffed with people who have a background in landscaping and architecture. Initially, Planning and Zoning Commission members will staff the board.

"The board feels like the regulations that are now in place will help regulate not only one formula-based businesses that could be pending, but future formula-based business," said Mayor Rachael Simbeck.

The trustees decided a moratorium on all business over a certain square footage might prevent beneficial businesses such as hardware stores or tractor stores from coming to town.

The board also found it could not ban a particular class of businesses without opening itself up to lawsuits, said Andrea Phillips town administrator.

Family Dollar already has property under contract to purchase on the corner of Willow and Menefee streets facing U.S. 160, said Greg Wall, a project manager with T&N Properties.

"Generally, we like to wait on the closing on the property until we have the building permit in hand," Wall said.

Once the moratorium lifts his company plans on starting the application process, Wall said.

Family Dollar's interest in building has sparked debate and protests in town, most recently at a meeting in January. But it prompted the town board and Planning and Zoning Commission to modernize the town's zoning laws.

As part of the land-use revisions, the town will no longer allow new churches, single-family homes, day cares, buildings that would house civic fraternal or social organizations, group homes, nursing homes, schools, bed and breakfasts and market gardens within the Highway Business District. Current buildings that fit into these categories are grandfathered in.

Originally, the revisions would have also prevented now banned structures from rebuilding on the same lot if more than 60 percent of the structure was damaged. It would have also prevented the business or nonprofit from reopening if abandoned for more than a year.

The restrictions drew the ire of David and Theresa Espinoza, who have run a day care out of their home for more than 20 years, within the Highway Business District. The couple spoke at the board meeting because they were concerned about how the restrictions might impact their insurance and the ability to sell their business.

"I feel it's kind of a slap in the face to us," said David Espinoza told the board. The couple also felt the homeowners in the Highway Business District had not been properly notified about the change and letters would have been more effective than a notice in the newspaper.

As a result, the board revised the ordinances so churches, day cares and single-family homes are can rebuild in the event of a disaster and reopen if abandoned.

"I don't think there was near enough advertisement," said Espinoza. But he said the exemptions for the three kinds of building uses was a better outcome than he expected.

The land-use code changes will also now allow theaters and performing arts spaces, garden centers and nurseries, auto repair garages and mixed-use buildings that would include apartments within the Highway Business District.

Trustee Todd Kearns felt like the changes were evidence of the town being proactive by zoning, but not zoning out businesses completely.

Trustee Will Stone was the lone voice of dissent who voted against creating a new design review board and the zoning changes because he felt they created more burdens for businesses.

"It seems like we're throwing more tape out there," he said.