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Carports, Stopped Trains and Retail Store in Countryside Discussed at Council Meeting

 

Last updated 6/19/2019 at 3:55pm | View PDF



Fountain City Council heard from Countryside area residents at its last meeting on June 11, regarding the construction of a retail store on property near the corner of Link and Jimmy Camp roads in southeastern Fountain.

Mayor Gabe Ortega was quick to state this is only about looking at and establishing development standards for the site in question, telling residents in attendance at the meeting, this is not about zoning. He said it is not like a previous consideration related to a proposal to put in a Maverik convenience and gas store near Mesa Ridge High School- which was not approved after much protest from residents living near the site as well as students from the school who all had safety concerns for the students and about traffic.

Rather, this agenda item was to consider an ordinance approving an overall development plan for the property known as Countryside West. It was explained the property covers approximately 10 and one-half acres and is zoned Planned Unit Development (PUD) District. The property is governed by the Countryside Master Plan approved in 1988 establishing the area as commercial. The Countryside Master Plan did not establish development standards. The owner is now selling 1.46 acres to a retail user and must submit the Overall Development Plan to establish the development standards for the property. While there are no development applications for the project at this time, the plan is being processed concurrently with a final plat to subdivide the 1.46 acres to allow the development of a commercial user. It was made clear the Overall Development Plan is only establishing development standards for a previous approved and vested commercial property.

“It has been zoned since 1988 for commercial,” he said, adding that west of the railroad tracks and north of RMB there is other property zoned for industrial and commercial. However he did say he had a lot of reserves, with concerns about lighting and traffic, especially for the properties that back up to the site. City staff recommended a perimeter fence be located on the north border of the property to provide a buffer and transition area between the nonresidential and residential uses.

The retail site (which city records indicate would be for a Dollar General store) is planned as a 9,100 square foot building with access off Jimmy Camp Road, as there is no direct access permitted from Link Road. No additional phases of development are planned at this time.

Concerned residents at the meeting cited the close proximity of homes and how they would be impacted by lighting, truck traffic and traffic back ups as reasons they were opposed. The close proximity of schools and how property values would be impacted were other concerns. Another concern was how the drainage areas tend to get backed up and overflow. One speaker said he didn’t want this to be the start of development that would eventually allow for a massage parlor or anything else that would be unsafe for children.

Some, including Mayor Ortega thought the area was part of a drainage basin and detection pond. It was explained no portion of the subdivision is in the designated 100-year floodplain there is a detention pond nearby.

Not everyone was opposed to the proposal. Planning Commissioner Gordon Rick said he had lived in Countryside since 1996 and that while it was said this started in 1988, he went to the first planning meeting about the site in 1998 when the Overall Development Plan was approved. “Most people wanted it to be commercial,” he recalled. “We wanted to be able to walk from our home to get a loaf of bread, jug of milk in our own community. That’s what the public wanted when it was originally approved.”

Councilmember Thompson said when she has walked the neighborhoods in Countryside for previous campaigns, one of the most requested things from residents was they wished that if they forgot milk, bananas etc. they wanted a little store they could just go to, so they didn’t have to drive all the way to Safeway again.

Another resident who wasn’t really fond of the idea also said you never know until you try something if it will work.

He said there once was a problem with kids doing motorcross in the area and in response to complaints the owner at that time (Mike Heritage) built up a berm and put the split rail fencing up to keep the motorcycles out. “That’s why it looks like a detention pond,” he said, adding it has horrible draining. He said he didn’t feel like there was a need to stop this portion from going forward.

Mayor Ortega later stated that in 1988, there was nothing out there, no high school yet. No one knew what the make up of the area would come to look like. He said again his biggest concerns are about the traffic.

Mayor Pro-tem Phil Thomas took offense when one member of the public made reference to not wanting “riff-raff” from another area of the city coming into his neighborhood to patronize the store.

Thomas replied, “it’s disheartening to me to have someone make a remark about the people living in the Royalty area. We have some of the most impoverished people in the county living in Fountain but God has been good to us.” He said it was unfit to speak about those who have less than others. “None of us would choose to live in substandard housing or on welfare,” he added.

Councilmember Richard Applegate spoke about traffic concerns stating, “It’s a Dollar General, it’s not going to double or triple traffic there. As a rule it’s not going to mob the streets.”

Deputy City Manager Todd Evans reminded the city has the ability, regarding any project that could burden a neighborhood, to come up with reasonable guidelines to help address quality of life issues.

“We take extra care when it borders a residential area.” He also proceed to offer to collect names of concerned residents and set up meetings with them and the developer to

Staff recommended to council to incorporate conditions before approving to include:

A Site Development Plan must be approved prior to issuance of a building permit

Prior to second reading, al staff and agency comments shall be satisfied and the open space requirement must be delineated on the Overall Development Plan

Installation of masonry perimeter fencing is required along the northern boundary of the property at the time of development.

Second reading of an ordinance regarding carports in Fountain was approved unanimously. It was amended to include the allowance of two or more carports on a property so long as they were purchased prior to June 11, but they still must comply with all other requirements of the ordinance.

Mayor Gabe Ortega said he had heard from a few residents who were confused regarding what he had referred to previously related to “grandfathering” residents. He said previously existing carports would still need to be in compliance. He said some who contacted him wanted more time so they could buy carports, but that was not the intent.

Councilmember Jim Coke referred to a slide that was shown at a previous meeting where a carport was being used for trash and asked if it the ordinance specifies it would have to be cleaned up.

Fountain Planning Supervisor Kristy Martinez said they are not for storage of junk and debris.

Councilmember Sharon Thompson said she had talked to Deputy City Manager Todd Evans to see if, since Regional Building has taken in a lot of cash from all the damages and rebuilding in our area (from last year’s storm), is there a chance they might waive or reduce permit fees for Fountain residents who need to get them for their carports. Evans said he had a meeting planned this week with them.

One resident who addressed council asked if the city was going to change the requirement from 200 square feet to 300, since it was just changed by regional.

After some discussion, City Attorney Troy Johnson said the policy decision to make that change is in conflict with what the city has adopted, and it would be safer to go with the adopted code, as regional sometimes comes out with policies that are often in conflict with what their code says.

The city’s zoning ordinance did not previously address carports, and the city deferred to the Pikes Peak Regional Building De4partment (PPRBD) for regulations. The PPRBD regulations state that all pre-manufactured or membrane carports less than 12 feet in width and less than 200 squre feet are exempt from obtaining a building permit.

The neighborhood services division has already conducted a windshield survey of al single-family and two-family residences in the city and has identified all carports located within front yards that had been installed to date. Staff recommended council give a grace period of nine months for owners of those to come into compliance with the new regulations .

Also during the meeting, long-time Fountain resident Al Lender, who owns a small ranch near the eastern end of Ohio Ave. alerted the council to problems with prairie dogs encroaching on homes along Ohio and to the north. He said that there is a 400,000 to 500,000 home on Drawbridge Terrace that has a prairie dog hole every 10 feet, and asked the council for help in stopping them. He said they have been in his barn destroying things and he was aware the city has called in help previously.

City Manager Scott Trainor said the USDA can coordinate with property owners to deal with them.

Also during public to be heard, local resident Deborah Stout Meininger addressed council about how, a few years ago, there were issues with trains stopping on the tracks and blocking intersections, which has started again recently. She cited how one night, after leaving a council meeting, she was forced to wait on the eastern side of the tracks for a stopped train, while it became colder and snowed. She explained that when she contacted the railroad she was told when it was time for a shift change union rules dictate the employees cannot stay on the train. So they leave it there for the next crew to come and get it.

She asked if the city council and police department could coordinate on this, including looking into giving fines or citations, adding there are not only traffic issues, but what if emergency vehicles need to cross a blocked intersection.

Mayor Ortega responded by telling her “they have a right to do what they want. We didn’t fine or threaten to fine them because we cant. “ He said motorists or citizens could call the numbers listed on signs on the crossing guards to complain.

Stout-Meininger replied, “Sorry to hear it’s up to the people to the job of our elected officials.”

Ortega then added, “the railroad will do whatever they will do. “

She mentioned a protocol to split the trains up, so they are not blocking intersections. She said this happened for quite a while but then it stopped.

After a few more comments from the mayor that he doubted they would take the time to do so, she once again said “I guess if people get concerned they will do what our elected officials should do for us…”

Since the meeting this newspaper has learned the city does in fact have an ordinance to address blocking streets within the city limits, and city staff is reaching out to the PUC who oversees railroads. The ordinance reads as follows:

10.08.020 Blocking Streets Within City Limits

It is unlawful for any person to direct the operation, order the operation, permit the operation or operate any railroad train in such a manner as to prevent the use of the street or roadway for purposes of vehicular or foot travel by blocking or otherwise preventing the movement of such traffic thereon for any period of time longer than five consecutive minutes in duration, and if a street or roadway is so blocked for a period of five minutes before it is again blocked; provided, that the provisions of this section shall not apply to trains moving continuously in the same direction to such intersections or crossing.

10.08.030 Violation – Penalty

Any person, firm or corporation violating any of the provisions of this Chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and , upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not more than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

 

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