The Cortez Planning and Zoning Commission approved a conditional-use permit and site plan for the new Cortez Fire District station during a public hearing on Tuesday.
The new station will replace the current one at 31 N. Washington St., but it will be much bigger, at 13,400 square feet, which will include living quarters for seven firefighters. The board’s approval of the permit and site plan is the next step in a project that will take from nine months to a year to complete, according to engineer Tom Engel of Goff Engineering, the contractor for the project. But although the planning and zoning board was in favor of the new building, they did ask for a few changes to the current site plan.
“It’s going to be a great thing for the neighborhood,” Engel said while presenting the application for the permit. “It’s going to be such a beautiful building.”
He said the project will include improvements to the sidewalk and gutters on the adjoining streets, and when the building is finished, firefighters will do landscaping work to maintain the look of the neighborhood.
The conditional-use permit, which allows the fire district to use the lot on Washington Street for a new headquarters, passed unanimously.
But the application for a site plan came with a few cautions from other agencies. City Manager Shane Hale wrote that he was concerned that the plan’s lack of an irrigation system might cause them to die off and become unsightly. City engineer Ken Torres wrote that the plan, which calls for emergency vehicles to exit the station on Washington and then turn onto Main Street, could cause traffic problems if the district doesn’t add a traffic signal at the intersection.
Associate city planner Neva Connolly said the concerns weren’t enough to keep the board from approving the fire station.
“Most of these comments, while important ... are not going to affect the actual site plan,” she said. “I don’t see that anything’s going to have to be removed from the plan because of these comments.”
Engel said the plan doesn’t include an irritation system because the district hopes to get a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, which has strict requirements about water usage. He and board member Tom Butler agreed that a traffic signal might be a good addition to the plan, but Engel said a light might not fit in the budget. Chairman Danny Giannone encouraged him to find a way to clear traffic for firetrucks, even if it has to be a cheaper option, since the alternative is to have them circle the block before turning onto Main Street.
“A minute to somebody in trouble – that can make all the difference in the world,” he said.
Cortez resident Keith Evans spoke during the public comment section on behalf of one of his friends who lives near the site of the proposed fire station. He asked whether the district would consider planting trees or plants to help screen neighbors from the noise of Main Street. But he added that he was excited about the new station.
The board unanimously approved the site plan, but added a strong recommendation that the district include a traffic control strategy for jobs when trucks have to exit onto Main Street. They did not make any final decisions about what it would look like.