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Edesia Community Kitchen granted special use permits

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Edesia Community Kitchen will be allowed to continue operations at 395 Clark Avenue, following decisions the Paonia Board of Trustees to approve a series of special use permits. Approval came following a lengthy public hearing that spanned two meetings and about five hours of public comment and deliberation. Approval also comes with special conditions addressing signage, lighting, noise, odors, alcohol consumption, hours and days of operation, parking, smoking, loitering, dust control, liability insurance, emergency access, compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, enforcement of local laws, and enforcement of the conditions of approval.

"I think everything that was decided was reasonable, and we don't have any problem with any of it," said Mary George, who represented Edesia on the application for special review. When she and husband John Mattox opened Edesia in 2016 they envisioned a community kitchen, business incubation center, and a place where community members can enjoy meals together and nonprofits can host fundraisers. Since opening, Edesia has grown to support six small businesses and about 30 jobs.

"We're really excited for our small businesses that get to keep doing what they're doing," said George.

Since opening, Edesia has operated out of compliance under L-1 Light Industrial zoning. Neighbors brought that fact to the town's attention last spring, stating that they were negatively affected by increased traffic, lighting, noise, smells, and other issues related to activities at Edesia.

Town administrator Ken Knight said that both parties shared some responsibility in the oversight. Historically, said Knight, the three warehouses on Clark Avenue have supported other uses including processing and manufacturing, a theater, and office space, and have been "an economic driver" for the town. While some of the prior uses would require a special review under I-1 zoning, "I have no idea if any of them ever received a special review," said Knight.

Most of the activities occurring at Edesia are allowed by special review under L-1 zoning. Special use permits address manufacturing and packaging of foods, retail business operations, product wholesaling, and operation of a public/private school. The board also approved operation of a restaurant, limited to 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. Among the conditions, alcohol can only be served and consumed inside the building. Edesia can also host special events seven days a week, limited to five events per month.

Applicants will also be required to show proof of adequate general liability insurance, and to work with the Paonia Fire Department to ensure adequate emergency access has been addressed.

Due to business relations with the applicant, trustee Chelsea Bookout elected to recuse herself from discussion and voting related to the application. Trustee Barry Pennell disclosed that his wife has manufactured granola bars at Edesia and that he works with the applicants through his job with Engage Delta County. "But I have no financial ties and am confident that I can make impartial decisions so I will be including myself in the conversation."

Trustees voted to require a six-month review of the special use permits to ensure that conditions are being met. Rather than hold that review administratively, it will be done through a public process. "It seems to me that process needs to be very public," said Mayor Charles Stewart.

George and Mattox said they are pleased with the process and believe it gave all parties a voice in the matter. "Our commitment is to being good community members," said George. "I think there's always going to be disagreement, and luckily, there's always a process that lets everybody say what they need to say."

One suggested condition didn't come to a vote. Neighbors have requested that a one-way traffic pattern be created on Clark Avenue, with egress via Minnesota Avenue. Doing so would cut traffic on Clark Avenue in half. Access, however, would cross parcels where the other warehouses are located, and would require cooperation between the town and property owners. "Certainly we can't require Edesia to do that," said Trustee Karen Budinger. "Ultimately, that's going to have to happen."

The board was also set to consider an application by Autumn Clark for a zoning change from R-1 to R-2 for property located at 123 Oak Ave. That application was withdrawn after the Planning Commission voted to recommend its denial.

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