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Mancos board approves change in land use code

Ordinance allows change of use in commercial district

After several months of discussion, the Mancos town board voted Wednesday to approve a change to the land use code governing the commercial district.

In August, a property owner in the town’s commercial business district asked the planning and zoning board to recommend amending the land use code so that mixed-use buildings in that area could be rebuilt as residences if they were destroyed. The code originally did not allow any building in the district to be rebuilt as a residence if it had ever been used for commercial purposes, which some property owners said has hurt their chances of selling their homes or starting home-based businesses. The planning and zoning board recommended an ordinance to change the code at its Oct. 18 meeting, and on Wednesday the town board gave final approval to the ordinance in a public hearing.

The ordinance changes one of the commercial district’s zoning regulations to match the highway business district, where property used as a residence before May 30, 2014, can be rebuilt for the same purpose if it burns down or is otherwise destroyed. The change will also apply to day cares and churches built before 2014.

A few of the town residents who originally pushed for the ordinance spoke during the public comment section of the hearing. Realtor Jeremy Christenson, who represented the property owner who first asked for the change, thanked the board for considering that request.

“Right now, we have a housing crisis, people are not able to buy and sell their homes,” he said. “Even more important than that, people are, right now, immediately at risk of losing vested property rights, should the unthinkable happen and a fire takes out one of these homes.”

Board member Cindy Simpson opposed the ordinance, saying she thought it was a bad idea to allow mixed use buildings to be rebuilt as residences in the highway business district, and that applying the same rule to the commercial district would make things worse. Nonconforming buildings need to be phased out of zoning districts eventually, she said, and the proposed ordinance would delay that.

“This goes against the whole point of having a zoning plan,” she said. “Zoning’s hard, and it’s tough. Sometimes you have to say no to people. I think making a change like this guts our zoning.”

The other trustees were in favor of the change. Mayor Pro Tem Fred Brooks said that, in a time when Mancos is suffering a housing shortage, the ordinance would give property owners more flexibility in using and selling their homes. Ultimately the board voted 3-1 to pass the ordinance, with Simpson voting “no” and Craig Benally absent.

Christenson asked the board to put the change into effect immediately, but interim town administrator Heather Alvarez said that was impossible since it didn’t qualify as an emergency ordinance. The ordinance will become effective 30 days after it is published in The Journal.

Other action

During the meeting, the town board also:

Approved a contract with SAFEbuilt Studio to help update chapters 13 and 16 of the Mancos municipal code for an amount not to exceed $60,000.Renewed the liquor license for Millwood Junction restaurant.Passed a resolution asking the Colorado General Assembly to reauthorize the lottery division to fund Great Outdoors Colorado and other conservation grants.Agreed to hold future board workshops at 6 p.m. before regular meetings instead of on the first Wednesday of the month.

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