The Monument Board of Adjustments, following three and a half hours of testimony, overturned an approved use Aug. 10 that would have allowed Orlando-based Colonial Management Group to open a methadone clinic in its downtown.
Monument Planning Director Mike Pesicka, who resigned yesterday morning, originally approved the use under the direction of Monument Town Manager Pamela Smith last month, according to testimony.
The appeals hearing nearly had to be postponed due to two long-vacated seats on the BOA, which were filled just days before the appeal.
All five members of the BOA voting to overturn Pesicka’s authorization, saying the opioid treatment center did not qualify as a clinic and did not fit Monument’s downtown’s statement of purpose.
Appellate Jamie Fenley was represented by former El Paso County attorney William Louis, who brought an extensive background in zoning law. Also, in support of the appellate was Scott Mikulecky of Howard and Sherman, representing St. Peter’s Church and Catholic School, which is situated yards away from the proposed facility.
Louis told the board to consider the town’s zoning map, zoning code and comprehensive land use plan. He said, even if the facility met map zoning and code requirements, one shouldn’t rely on the definition alone, as the planning director had done.
“We’re not just looking at the definition,” Louis said, pointing to the town’s admission of having looked up “clinic” in the Oxford Dictionary in order to make a decision regarding CMG’s proposal. Louis then advised the board to consider CMG’s negative land use impacts.
“Every zoning classification in any well developed zoning code will have a statement of purpose for that zoning classification,” Louis said, reading the town’s B zone statement of purpose: “This district is established for the purpose of providing for the retailing of consumer goods and the provision of services to consumers.”
Louis asked the board to consider if that was compatible with a methadone “dispensary.”
Colonial Management Group was represented by Christopher Dawes, who directed questioning to Katie Peck, CMG’s director of business development and governmental affairs.
Dawes said the facility absolutely fit the definition of clinic, and Peck testified to the medical properties of the business, to include an on-site doctor and several registered nurses. Peck said doctors would be present for about 12 hours a week. She explained, once the business was up and running, it could facilitate up to 400 patients.
“We have very high-level clinicians, I would call them, because it’s a clinic, that operate the facility daily,” Peck said in her testimony.
Peck did not immediately respond to the Business Journal’s request for comment.
Former Monument town manager Cathy Green, testified for the appellate, stating, “By all means, a methadone facility is not compatible with downtown … It’s very important that the heart of downtown remain the heart.”
Dawes made a passing reference to probable legal action should the Pesicka’s approval be overturned.
“Monument may very well decide to do something different in the future, with respect to the zoning code … but what we’re talking about here is, what was the state of the code when my client … got approval from Monument?” Dawes said. “My client’s made significant investment in that property based upon [the planning director’s] approval … My client doesn’t take this matter lightly in any way, shape or form. It takes it very seriously.”
Peck said CMG invested more that $250,000 in renovations and technology at the site.
“My feeling is that the town did not do due diligence on this case,” said newly appointed BOA member Robin Yamiolkoski, adding the purpose of the zoning ordinances were “to promote the health, safety, convenience, order, prosperity, aesthetics, environmental quality and general welfare of the present and future inhabitants of Monument, Colorado.”
The crowd, which overwhelmingly objected to the company’s intent to locate in downtown Monument, erupted in applause.
CMG now has the option to appeal the decision in El Paso County District Court, which will review the transcript of the BOA hearing and render a decision.
Monument Mayor Rafael Dominguez told the Business Journal he fully expects a lawsuit.
“I hope it’s over but I doubt it,” Dominguez said. “I anticipate the company is going to sue.”
Asked whether he thought the decision to approve the business as a clinic was still valid, Dominguez said, “It’s hard to gauge now. The ordiance is ambiguous enough for a reason. We don’t provide so much detail so there’s no room for interpretation. You just can’t plan for all the possible scenarios.”
Dominguez added that the the town was waiting to see the result of the BOA appeal before revisiting its zoning codes to prevent similar disputes in the future.