El Poso stands defiant
Residents of one of Grand Junction’s oldest neighborhoods will continue to fight against a walled storage yard slated for the entrance to their area.
Wednesday night marked the second time the wishes of neighbors in the El Poso have been denied.
The first was by Grand Junction planning commissioners, who unanimously approved a conditional-use permit for the storage yard, and the second was when Grand Junction city councilors only briefly discussed the issue on an appeal Wednesday.
Councilor Bennett Boeschenstein was the lone councilor who voted Wednesday to send the issue back to planning commissioners for reconsideration. The neighbors’ next step is to file their grievance in district court, they say.
“It’s just been a really terrible process, one that will forever change the way we deal with the city,” said Juanita Trujillo, a leader of the opposition to the storage yard. “We’ll never do anything in good faith again. It appears that there are ways to communicate, but there are ways your voice is stifled.”
In late April, planning commissioners signed off on a conditional-use permit allowing the U.S. Department of the Interior to store government vehicles and other items on a vacant lot at the corner of Mulberry Street and West Ouray Avenue. The project is in connection with a $7 million remodel and reuse of the nearby former Gene Taylor’s Sporting Goods building, 445 W. Gunnison Ave.
A complete remodel of the building and the roughly 100 government workers who will be housed there during weekdays is not at issue, neighbors said. It’s about the 8-foot stone wall located at the rear and kitty-corner to the building that is planned for the entrance to their neighborhood — an eyesore that won’t fit in with the neighborhood’s residential character, opponents said.
To date the project’s manager, Englewood-based SBC Archway, has revised a plan to remove three strands of barbed wire from the top of the fence after neighbors protested that the look would bring down their home values. The wall facing the roadways will have landscaping and a 17-foot buffer space along the road on West Ouray and a 22-foot buffer on Mulberry Street.
At Wednesday’s council meeting, Boeschenstein questioned why a storage yard would be allowed on the property, because it is zoned Commercial 1, or C1. A storage yard is only allowed on parcels zoned Commercial 2 or C2.
Grand Junction City Attorney John Shaver said by phone on Friday that conditional-use permits can be allowed on land that is not zoned correctly if the use is compatible with the surrounding area. Shaver said it appeared the storage yard would contain mostly vehicles and be used as a parking lot for the office facility, and be less of a venue for long-term, outdoor storage.
“I don’t agree with that,” Boeschenstein countered Friday.
Boeschenstein said the office space will house Bureau of Land Management workers and the storage yard will contain vehicles and equipment currently seen at their offices off Horizon Drive near the Grand Junction Regional Airport.
“You can see all the heavy equipment stored in back,” he said. “Why not have that heavy equipment stored somewhere else?”
Boeschenstein said he’s concerned because it appears El Poso neighbors don’t have an advocate with the city. In general, he said, planning staff “appears to take the side of the developer almost in every case,” he said. “That is very unusual. The staff shouldn’t be speaking for the developer.”
El Poso neighbors will push forward with their fight because they don’t think city councilors fully considered and understood the issue, Trujillo said.
On Wednesday night, councilors were tasked with either affirming, remanding or reversing the prior decision by the planning commission. As is the case with a planning commission appeals process, no new testimony is to be considered.
However, when councilors barely touched on the subject in open session, it appeared that they hadn’t even read the related materials or were versed on the issues, Trujillo said.
Indeed, councilors would have had to review hundreds of pages of documents on the issue that had been included in the record.
“I was very disappointed,” Trujillo said. “It’s not OK to dump this over a poor neighborhood.”