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WildEdge Brewing one step closer to Cortez

Craft brewery would be city’s third

Cortez could see a third craft brewery come to the city in the coming months.

Planning and zoning board members on Tuesday unanimously recommended a rezone of the properties at 101, 111 and 127 N. Market St. from the Neighborhood Business zone to Central Business District zone.

Board members also recommended an ordinance that would allow micro-breweries, wineries and distilleries in the Central Business District. The recommendations will go before the Cortez City Council, which will have the final say, at their July 12 and 26 meetings.

If approved, the zoning changes will make way for the WildEdge Brewing Collective microbrewery and tap room. Co-owner Tucker Robinson said he hopes to start remodeling the space for the brewery by mid-August.

“We believe it will be a perfect fit for the area,” Robinson told board members.

The Central Business District (CBD) extends for one block to the north and south of U.S. Highway 160 through downtown Cortez, from Linden Street to Harrison Street. The lots that were in question Tuesday share a border with the existing district and lie in the half-block just north of the CBD.

There are three buildings at the site, and two are already occupied by businesses, City Planner Tracie Hughes said. The landowners of the adjacent buildings also endorsed the zone change.

Hughes pointed out that one objective for Cortez planning is to encourage small business development in the downtown area. She said rezoning for WildEdge Brewing was in line with that objective, and board members agreed.

Cortez Cultural Center Executive Director Rebecca Levy spoke in favor of the zone change, saying the Cultural Center wants to encourage development at that location. The Cultural Center lies about a block south of the proposed brewery location.

Robinson said it would be good to allow breweries in the CBD and would be an added tourist draw to the area. Jim Herrick, a former city councillor, also spoke in favor of that change, saying it would be a logical progression of the plan for the city.

“This make sense,” Herrick said. “It’s what we envisioned years ago.”

The original proposed ordinance would require at least 25 percent of a brewery’s square footage to be dedicated to a tasting room. Board members voted to recommend that percentage be reduced to 15 percent.

Also Tuesday, the board recommended for approval a site plan for a multifamily development at 121 E. First St., the Calkins building.

Thirteen apartment units are planned in the historic former school building, and an annex on the northwest side of the property will hold 34 units, according to planning documents.

At their meeting June 28, City Council members approved a conditional-use permit for the multifamily development, as well as a primary plat for the site.

The Calkins building is 6,540 square feet, and the annex building will be 35,963 square feet. Hughes reported that the Cortez Fire Department requested direct access to the front, north side of the Calkins building by way of a loop drive. However, a loop drive would cut out existing landscaping at the front of the building, including flower beds and a flag pole, said Engineer Nancy Lauro, a project representative.

Planning and Zoning Board Member Tim Kline said he understood the fire department’s position, since the apartments likely will house some elderly tenants who might need medical assistance from time to time. However, he said the landscaping there is attractive and contributes to the building’s historical value. Instead of a loop drive, Kline suggested removing some public parking spaces along First Street on the north side of the building to allow for a permanent fire zone.

Lauro said the site will be fully compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and will include a wheelchair-accessible ramp that will lead to an elevator.

Calkins Redevelopment LLC, which is planning the project, doesn’t yet own the property. The Montezuma-Cortez School District still owns the property, but Calkins Redevelopment representative Becky Barber told the Cortez City Council at their June 28 meeting that she expects to take ownership this fall.

Calkins Redevelopment is seeking tax credits from the Colorado Finance and Housing Authority to develop the affordable-housing units at Calkins and should learn in August whether they’ve been granted. Barber said she’s waiting to hear about the tax credits before buying the building.

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