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Paonia Holdings decision expected Dec. 4

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At their meeting Nov. 20, Delta County Commissioners Doug Atchley, Mark Roeber and Don Suppes heard three hours of presentation and citizen response regarding a land use change application requested by Paonia Holdings, LLC.

Paonia Holdings, LLC submitted the request under the Delta County Specific Development Regulations. The property is owned by Bowie Resources, LLC, and was formerly used as a coal load-out site.

The physical address of the property is 41322 Highway 133, with an adjacent residence at 41402 Highway 133 and an ancillary property at 16180 Steven's Gulch Road, all north of Paonia.

Applicant Mark Levin, Paonia Holdings, Inc., requests a change to commercial, light industrial and agricultural uses for the property.

The applicant identifies several land uses planned for the property: heavy equipment storage; repair and sales of mining, excavation, agricultural and other equipment; fabrication and machining services, welding services; engineering and construction consultant services; sales, repair, manufacturing of firearms and ammunition; limited agricultural production from the orchard on site; facilities supporting electrical transmission and distribution, communication lines and water conveyance.

Future uses may include residential development; larger shop and warehouse; office and administrative buildings; upgrade of roads and fences.

The applicant has made presentations in several meetings which have been widely attended. (See articles by Tamie Meck in the Nov. 1 and Nov. 15 issues of the DCI.)

Attorney Aaron Clay, representing the applicant, stated that Paonia Holdings, LLC meets the eight criteria set forth in the county's Specific Development Regulations. All the proposed uses are compatible with the requested change to commercial, light industrial and agricultural use. He said these uses are compatible with agriculture and tourism and other adjacent uses. They will exist harmoniously with these adjacent uses and be less intrusive than the former Bowie uses.

Applicant Mark Levin narrated a Power Point presentation for the commissioners and attendees, who filled the seating capacity of the hearing room, with several people standing.

John Justice, legal counsel for Bowie Resources, stated that Bowie supports the application of Paonia Holdings, LLC. "The use of the past 40 years was industrial in nature and the proposed use is not specifically different. The same use will continue," Justice said.

Commissioner Atchley called for comments from those who wanted to speak. They were asked to limit their comments to three minutes, and were timed.

Three people spoke in favor of the application; 27 urged denial of the application.

Those in favor spoke of connections to mining and positive attitudes about the future of the Paonia area.

Those opposed are concerned that the land use will damage the image and uniqueness of Paonia, and discourage new agriculture/tourism industries from

coming to Paonia; will be detrimental to wineries and other agricultural businesses now prospering; will negatively impact agri-tourism businesses currently in Paonia; will negatively impact Paonia's economic vitality and its individual vitality.

Of particular concern is the impact on the Farmers Ditch and the presumed requirement that it be returned to its original state. Colorado Westmoreland, Bowie's predecessor, placed a 627-foot segment of the ditch in a 60-inch culvert and buried it under an estimated 20-30 feet of material.

Speakers also expressed concern that if Paonia Holdings buys the land from Bowie Resources, Bowie will be released from the obligation to Colorado Division of Mining Reclamation and Safety to reclaim the land. Justus assured those attending that Bowie would not be released from the obligation to the state and Bowie intends to finish the reclamation.

At the end of the comment time, Commissioner Atchley asked several times if anyone else wished to comment, noting he wanted to be sure everyone had the opportunity to express their opinions. There being no further speakers, Atchley closed the time for public comment.

Commissioner Roeber said, "This has been a contentious issue, one not to be taken lightly. I need more time to go through all the testimony."

"I concur with Commissioner Roeber," Commissioner Suppes said. "I need to review all the testimony before I can make a decision."

A motion to table the request passed 3-0. The issue is tabled until Dec. 4 at 10 a.m.

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