By a vote of 3 to 2, the Palisade Planning Commission on Sept. 14 voted to recommend to town trustees approval of Land Development Code amendments to clarify public outdoor recreation uses on town-owned land that is designated Community Public District. The recommendation is expected to be heard by the trustees on Sept. 22.
A discrepancy in a code table “was discovered after the Town was approached by a local business with an interest in operating a campground within the Riverbend Park,” Ron Quarles, Community Development Director, said in a memo to the commission.
After consulting with the town attorney, Quarles prepared an ordinance that would remove the discrepancy. The attorney also advised to include language to also specify festivals and events as permitted uses.
Quarles explained that a table in the code incorrectly leaves out “outdoor recreation” for the Community Public District zone. Riverside park is zoned Community Public District. The Land Development Code, itself, however, defines outdoor recreation as “any recreation facility where activity takes place primarily outdoors, including RV parks and campgrounds, miniature golf courses, batting cages, swimming pool, driving range or a similar facility.”
In his memo, Quarles states, “Although the amendment would remove uncertainty concerning this use being permitted in the Park, the Town would still have control of how the Park is utilized and if camping and any other recreation uses would or would not occur.”
Quarles writes in the memo that the Community Public District was created as a new zoning district in 2008. The zoning map was amended for 277 acres of land and 15 separate parcels, which included public school land, town park land, the downtown plaza and parking area, the civic center and community center, and other town-owned parcels.
During discussion of the proposed amendment, Commissioner Rick Gibson raised a concern that if, for instance, a commercial RV campground was opened in town, then the town could be in competition with it.
Commissioner Kenneth Ruth said specifying the uses would “be opening the door to commercial businesses to operate in public property.” Lafe Wood, vice chair, said, however, that the town would still make the decision on operations about town property.
Commissioner Ruth said that, in such cases, he preferred that permission to operate on town property would not be for year-round operation.
Development Director Quarles acknowledged that certain uses on town property could be challenged under the current language. Commissioner Wood noted that the town already operates a pool.
Trustee Robynn Sundermeier, liaison to the commission, pointed out that the board has discussed the campground proposal for Riverbend Park and that there is no conclusion. “We want to protect our parks and we’re not sure camping is best for the park. There is no decision yet.”
Commissioner Ruth observed, “The parks are for parks, not commercial enterprises. If you want to open an RV park, go buy the land.”
Quarles said that even if the language is clarified, “It’s still the board’s decision.”
Commissioner Ruth later added, “If we can lease our parks to commercial businesses, then we have no parks. This is not right.” Ruth also said, “The community needs more involvement in this.”
Commissioner Ron Gearhart moved to recommend approval of the changes. Commissioner Charlotte Wheeler seconded it. The motion did not pass, on a vote of 3 to 2. Voting yes were Commissioners Gearhart and Wheeler.
Commissioner Ruth emphasized his concern about business operations in parks, saying, “If the town gets in a bind, there goes the parks.” He asked for examples of partnerships between business and towns. Director Quarles said, “Public/private partnerships happen all the time.”
Quarles said a motion was needed to deny or approve the proposed clarification. Commissioner Ruth asked if the town attorney could address the subject. Quarles said the attorney doesn’t consider the revisions a change, but a clarification. Commissioner Ruth commented, “What we have right now is sufficient.”
Commissioner Wood, vice chair, asked for a “re-vote” to add “outdoor recreation” as a permitted use in the Community Public District. A motion was made to recommend approval of the amendments as recommended by staff. It passed by a vote of 3 to 2. Voting no were Commissioners Ruth and Gibson.
In other business, commissioners rescheduled continued discussion of rewriting the section in the Land Development Code about manufactured housing. A work session on the section was scheduled for Friday, Sept. 25, at noon.
Quarles informed the commission about two topics going to the trustees, namely, consideration of a special improvement district assessment to owners for sidewalks on the recently rebuilt section of Main Street, and a setback variance on Victoria Street.
The hour-long meeting was held at the Palisade Civic Center. Commission Chair Betsy McLaughlin did not attend.
Commission meetings are normally held on the first Monday of the month, 6 p.m. at the civic center, and are open to the public. This meeting was held on the second Monday of the month due to the Labor Day holiday on Sept. 7.