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Cortez planning board OKs rezoning for farmers market

Market and coffee shop planned for residential area at Osprey corner
Osprey Packs headquarters, located across North Mildred Road from a proposed farmers market and coffee shop, under construction in May.

In a public hearing on Tuesday, the Cortez Planning and Zoning Commission approved a rezoning to allow a farmers market and coffee shop on East Empire Street.

Montezuma County residents Chris and Laurie Hutton, who own a vacant lot at 1002 E. Empire St., have used their lot to sell produce throughout the summer. They applied for a rezoning of the property, currently listed as residential, to open a full farmers market and coffee shop. The board recommended the city approve a change in zoning that will allow the site to be used for “neighborhood business” purposes.

Assistant City Planner Neva Connolly said the lot, which is currently zoned as residential property, has been vacant for at least 20 years. She pointed out the area’s increased business development, including the Osprey Packs headquarters across the street, and said a new business on the lot would fit in.

Some board members raised concerns about “spot zoning,” or a new use for a single property that is at odds with the surrounding zone.

“It goes against the land use code we’ve been working on for three or four years,” Tom Butler said.

He said he would prefer new businesses to move into the central business district.

Rebecca Levy said she thought the issue was a “gray area” because of the businesses being developed on Empire Street, as well as several nearby planned developments that are zoned for offices or similar purposes.

Board president Danny Giannone said he believed a small business on the lot would create a buffer between the neighboring houses and larger businesses like Osprey.

Connolly and the Huttons said they had received no negative feedback on the proposal from neighbors.

“Our intent for the property is to make it kind of a neighborhood niche, a place where people can go and hang out and get lunch and get fresh produce,” Chris Hutton said.

The board members agreed to add a condition to the application requiring a review from city attorney Mike Green. They voted 3-1 for approval of the rezoning, with Butler voting “no” and Rachel Medina absent.

Chris Hutton said that if the Cortez City Council approves the application, he and Laurie will likely put a food truck on the property alongside their usual produce booth next summer, and gradually build up to install a greenhouse and coffee shop.

The Huttons’ food truck might have some company. On Friday, Osprey Packs announced plans to host Yia Yia’s Concessions and Gyro Truck once a week in its parking lot for lunch starting on Tuesday, Nov. 14.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the board also voted unanimously to recommend approval of a special exception that will allow the Cortez Fire Protection District to place an electronic sign on the southeast corner of the new fire station site.

Both issues will go before the City Council for final approval.

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