Sign variance is a moment of truth

At some point in Palisade’s rich historic past, town leaders thought enough of the unique visual environment to want to protect it from the eyesore effect of giant signs.

Nestled at the foot of Mount Garfield and with Grand Mesa providing an even more immense backdrop, Palisade and its orchards and vineyards form a pastoral oasis in the craggy high desert. No other community in the Grand Valley is more defined by what it looks like from Interstate 70 than Palisade.

The town’s rural character, however, has been somewhat easy to maintain. Palisade is one of the few communities located along I-70 in Colorado without a major fueling station located near an exit.

Trustees have long wanted a fueling station to locate at Exit 42 to bring some of the thousands of I-70 motorists into town.

Here’s their chance. Golden Gate Petroleum wants to build an 11-pump fueling station with a 4,200-square-foot convenience store. But company officials say the planned development hinges on a sign tall enough to advertise the presence of the gas station.

Palisade’s Planning Commission has already allowed a variance for a 60-foot sign, but 36 local residents have filed an appeal, pooling their money to cover the $250 administrative cost of challenging the decision.

We applaud the action. Nobody is opposed to the gas station itself and Golden Gate has expressed an interest in promoting Palisade’s fruit and wine country inside its store.

But locals who value Palisade’s small-town feel are right to question what happens if an exception to the 20-foot sign limit is made in this case. Allowing one company to break Palisade’s sign code standards is an invitation for future incoming businesses to follow suit. How do you tell a retail marijuana operation with potentially greater impact on local coffers “no” on a giant sign when a gas station set the precedent?

The appeal provides an opportunity for some much-needed public discussion on an important topic. Namely, how much is the town willing to sacrifice for a few low-skill jobs?

Palisade is poised for great things. Some would argue that a well-placed filling station is part of the recipe for helping the town realize its potential. That may be true, but we urge caution. Don’t be so desperate to land a filling station that you alter the character that has made Palisade a special place.

We’ve all seen giant signs for gas stations on our travels. The ones on the Eastern Plain can be seen a mile away, which can be reassuring if you’re low on gas and seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

Maybe Palisade doesn’t need a 60-foot sign. Maybe the 36 locals represent the only opposition to something the rest of the town wants. At least appealing the variance gives the town a chance to talk about it.


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