In its first meeting since the April 3 election, the Cortez Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday approved a site plan for the new Bridge Emergency Shelter.
Ever since they learned in January 2017 that their location in the Montezuma County Justice Building was for sale, the shelter’s leaders have planned to build a shelter in Cortez. The site plan approved Tuesday calls for a two-story building on 735 N. Park St., with temporary housing on the top floor and the emergency shelter and day labor center on the first floor. If the Cortez City Council gives final approval to the site plan, construction on the building will begin in July.
The new shelter is being designed by RMBA Architects, the Durango-based firm that designed the Osprey Packs Inc. headquarters across the street from the planned location. Mike Eberspacher, a representative of the company, said the shelter will have a similar shape and color scheme to that building.
“I think we’ve come up with a very good-looking building, an efficient building that will meet the needs of the Bridge,” he said.
Cortez city code requires about two parking spots per apartment in most similar zoning areas, or 41 parking spots outside the new shelter. But Bridge leaders asked the Planning and Zoning Commission to approve a parking lot with 21 spots, including two handicapped spots. Executive Director Laurie Knutson said shelter guests rarely have cars, and the organization doesn’t get much traffic from delivery trucks or other vehicles.
The commission members readily agreed to that exception, but Rachel Medina said she was concerned about the traffic a new building would bring to the Park and Empire street intersection.
“People cross that street to go to the park, to go to work, and a lot of these people are on foot,” she said. “Safety is a concern.”
At Medina’s recommendation, the board added a condition to the site plan that would ask the city to consider adding a crosswalk at Park and Empire streets.
According to plans submitted by RMBA, the new shelter will have nine one-bedroom apartments and two two-bedroom apartments on its second floor, with accessible temporary housing on the first floor. The emergency shelter on the first floor will have beds for 21 people – 18 men and three women – plus an intoxication recovery area that can house 19.
The planning commission unanimously approved the site plan, which will go before the Cortez City Council on June 26. If it’s approved, Eberspacher said, the Bridge plans to start the 10-month construction process right away.
Since Montezuma County is negotiating a sale of the Justice Building to Children’s Kiva Montessori School, the Bridge has been left without a location until construction is finished. The year-round Day Labor Center is operating out of the First United Methodist Church, but Knutson said she’s still working to find a temporary location for the shelter before its scheduled opening on Oct. 10.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved a rezoning for 2310 E. Empire St. from single-family residential to neighborhood business, which will allow Micah Rudosky, owner of a fitness center in the building, to add a virtual golf station and possibly some other indoor sports equipment. The commission spent some time debating the decision, which would involve “spot zoning” because the gym is in the middle of a residential neighborhood, but after a long discussion with Rudosky and his lawyer, Kelly McCabe, and after several audience members voiced support for the change, the commissioners voted unanimously to approve it.
The commissioners also appointed Rebecca Levy as the board chairwoman, and new member Robert Rime as vice chairman. They voted to recommend Lance McDaniel as the next commission member, which would bring their number up to five again after the resignation of former chairman Danny Giannone. McDaniel ran for City Council in this year’s municipal election, but narrowly lost, by votes.