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KSJD Local Newscast - June 21, 2024

Montezuma County and the commissioners are being sued over the denial of a high-impact permit for a Dollar General store to be built at Highway 145 and Road N. Leaf Properties, the Georgia corporation that owns a 3.78-acre tract at the site, filed suit in District Court on May 28. Montezuma County has not yet filed its response.

The county Planning & Zoning Commission had voted unanimously on April 11 to recommend rejecting the application and the county commissioners said no to it on April 23 with a 2-1 vote. Numerous local residents spoke at both public hearings, voicing concerns about traffic safety, a lack of adequate water for firefighting, light pollution, harm to neighboring property values, crime associated with dollar stores, and the fact that the county already has five dollar stores.

In explaining his vote to say no to the permit on April 23, Commissioner Gerald Koppenhafer said although the four-acre parcel on which the store was proposed is zoned commercial, that doesn’t mean any and every type of business would be acceptable there. He and Commissioner Kent Lindsay said the store would have significant adverse impacts to traffic, neighboring property values, and the area’s rural character. Koppenhafer said, “Development should be more in line with what’s in that area. I don’t care what kind of store it is.”

Lindsay and Koppenhafer emphasized that they were not rejecting the proposal because it involved a Dollar General store specifically, but because it did not fit with the surrounding neighborhood.

In the complaint, Leaf Properties notes that the property at 27078 Road N is already zoned commercial. The land-use code says “significant adverse impacts” on nearby properties are a factor in deciding whether to approve a high-impact permit, but the plaintiff says that is too vague and “could consist of anything at all.”

The plaintiff alleges that the county commission “abused its discretion” because it didn’t deliver written findings specifying what provision of the land-use code the plaintiff had failed to meet. The plaintiff seeks a reversal of the decision rejecting the store as well as a finding from the court that the county’s review procedures for high-impact permits are totally invalid for any use that is permitted by right under a property’s existing zoning.

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Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal, and was the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.