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Cortez council plans to amend land use code to allow new school

Change will open new uses for justice building
The Children’s Kiva Montessori School’s current location on 25 N. Beech St.

The Cortez City Council voted Tuesday to approve the first reading of a land use code amendment that would allow a school to move into the old Montezuma County Justice Building.

The building, which is for sale, is located in the city’s “open” zoning district, where schools have not been historically allowed. The amendment would change that, adding schools as a conditional use for the zoning district. It had already been approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission, and was proposed as a way to allow the Children’s Kiva Montessori Charter School to move into the building.

The Montezuma County Board of Commissioners voted to sell the building in January 2017, as the Montezuma County Courts prepared to move into their new location at 865 N. Park St. Since then, no buyers have been announced, and city planner Tracie Hughes said the city’s zoning limits the number of organizations that could use the building.

“Right now, there’s very few uses that are actually allowed in that zoning district,” she said. “It’s an open zone, so it’s sort of set up to be open space.”

The council unanimously approved a first reading of the new ordinance, which adds public, private and church schools to the list of conditional uses in the district.

Montezuma County Commissioner Larry Don Suckla said the building is “under contract” to the Kiva, although the sale has not yet been finalized. He said he was pleased to learn the land use amendment was likely to be approved.

“I think it will be a good thing for the community to have a school there, right next to the park,” he said.

City Manager Shane Hale said the Kiva has already started the process of applying for a conditional use permit.

“They’re trying to go pretty quick,” he said.

In 2017, the city approved a conditional use permit that would have allowed the Kiva, currently at 25 N. Beech St., to move into two buildings on Empire Street. During the application process, school officials claimed their growing student population was running out of space in the Beech Street location. But the school’s planned purchase of the Empire Street buildings fell through after it became clear that one of the current tenants, Stormy’s ATC Gymnastics, did not want to move.

Head of School Susan Likes declined to comment on the move.

The council will hold a public hearing on the land use code amendment at its next meeting on March 27.

Other action

During the meeting, the council also:

Held a public hearing in which they gave final approval to 11 building code updates.Approved a letter to be sent to the Federal Aviation Administration, asking the agency to loosen its training requirements for Essential Air Service airline pilots. Co-pilots in the U.S. are currently required to log 1,500 flight hours before working on a commercial flight.Approved the re-appointment of the current members of the city’s board of adjustments and appeals.Approved a $3,000 professional services contract for Trails 2000 to perform trail maintenance assessments in Cortez.Approved the first reading of an ordinance that would create a new board of appeals for the city. The council will consider final approval during a public hearing on March 27.Authorized the mayor to sign a contract for a $7,708 grant from the Colorado Historical Society that will allow the Cortez historic preservation board to create a podcast tour of the city.Approved a $240,300 bid for a new street sweeper and a $141,275 bid for a recycling truck. Approved an amendment to the city’s contract with Skywerx Internet Services to reduce the city’s monthly fee to $1,550.Approved the first reading of an ordinance allowing the purchase of 50 acres of land from Keith Evans.

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