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Oct 18, 2010 8:48 PM by Andy Koen

Failed restaurant deal has city reviewing zoning laws

The property that once was the Sky Valley Motel in Canon City is a dump. There were plans to level the building and put in a Jack and the Box franchise here. Last week, the developer Bladow Colorado Properties LLC backed out.

"It just doesn't make sense for us to proceed to because of the financial commitment we would have to make," said Michael Bladow.

For one thing the building has asbestos and required clean up. But Bladow says the ultimate deal-breaker was a $150,000 left turn lane they were required to pay for on Highway 50.

He says the city engineer contacted the Colorado Department of Transportation to ask whether a turn lane was needed. C-DOT which owns Fremont Drive, the frontage road on which the property is located, said that it was.

Later when the city reversed course and decided that the restaurant could make do without the turn lane, Bladow says they asked for help in appealing C-DOT decision. The city would not.

"We've built over 40 properties and we've never ever experienced anything like this," Bladow said.

The story is a highly visible example of a trend many business owners are frustrated with. Near the failed restaurant site Bruce Jensen is spending $53,000 to put in sidewalks, curbs and gutters in front of the Tobacco Corner and Donuts and Dogs.

"I managed it but I hocked my pension for it," Jensen said.

The city adopted a site development plan three years ago requiring new businesses to pay for typical city projects like this prior to opening. The law also requires the improvement for existing business change their use in any way.

"They look as somebody they think has deep pockets and say, we're going to go after it," Jensen said. "They're trying to kill small business in this city."

An ad hoc committee consisting of business owners, developers, the chamber of commerce and the economic development corporation have been fighting the site development plan because they say it make Canon City unfriendly to business and hurts growth.

Mayor Tony Greer agrees that there is a problem. He worked on the committee that developed the site development plan in 2006.

"Unfortunately, when we talked about that there was nothing in there that prompted us to think about how that was going to affect developers and businesses as a whole."

In light of the Jack and the Box ordeal, Greer says revising the plan the city's top priority. City Council will consider a moratorium on the plan at their next meeting Wednesday night.

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