citizensforsmartgrowth

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Community Petition

In Dollar General Updates on March 10, 2011 at 6:04 PM

These Citizens call for the following:

1. That the Town of Palisade and the Town Board honor survey results completed by its citizens and include findings in future comprehensive plans.

2. That the Town of Palisade adopt a formal public hearing process with the town Planning Commission and the Town Board concerning changes to the comprehensive plan.

3. That the Town of Palisade Board make land use decisions based on the comprehensive plan.

4. That emergency meetings be used for intended purposes to preserve peace, health and safety of the public or special elections only and not to make decisions regarding use of town-owned property and/or changes to the comprehensive plan or land use.

5. That no Dollar General or any Box Store be approved in Palisade Town Center unless approved by a majority vote of the citizens of Palisade.

Sign the Petition here: Community Petition

Recent Findings on the “Emergency”

In Dollar General Updates on March 10, 2011 at 5:56 PM

This is perhaps the most revealing information about the recent sale of Town owned property discovered:

In the “Minutes of Meeting of the Palisade Board of Trustees February, 2 2011,” Tim Sarmo “notified the Board that this (Ordinance 2011-01, “Authorizing the Sale of Town Owned Property and Declaring an Emergency”) was an Emergency Ordinance and would need 6 of the 7 vote yes to have the Ordinance become effective immediately. Otherwise, if it was a minority vote, it would pass as a regular Ordinance and become effective 30 days after publication.”

The only Declaration of an Emergency was Tim Sarmo telling the board they needed majority vote to skirt the 30 days publication (due process).

Questions: What constitutes an emergency? Is there any legal precedent for considering the sale of Town owned property an “Emergency?”

We requested documents from the Town offices pertaining to emergency provisions (municipal code – Sec. 1-55. and 31-16-105). It appears that an emergency vote, waiving 30 day public notification, may only be used in cases of special election, public health, and public safety. Real estate deals don’t seem to fit in with that. Tim Sarmo and the Board of Trustees have stated publicly that they declared an emergency ordinance to push the deal through. It does not seem appropriate to skirt due process over the sale of town land. In fact, the sale of land at the “gateway of our community” should be most informed by democratic processes: public notice/comment, advisement from comprehensive plan and planning committee, respect for town administered survey results, etc.

There was no emergency and no “Declaration of an Emergency” other than our Town Administrator telling the Board they needed a majority vote to waive the public comment period.

A Recent History of Events

In Dollar General Updates on February 26, 2011 at 9:56 AM

The Town of Palisade’s Board of Trustee’s recently sold 3 lots in downtown Palisade to a developer in Oklahoma (Franklin Land Associates). They held a meeting to sell the property and declared the ordinance an Emergency to waive the required 30 days public comment/notice. Back story: the town purchased the property in March of last year, purportedly to protect the gateway of our community. A year later, having not marketed the property at all, the board sells this gateway to our community to a developer that did not disclose the name of the store they intended to build, at a clandestine meeting.

Citizens of our community were completely blindsided by this decision. Rumors spread. What store is it? What business is our governing body letting into our community? In an open letter to the public, officials claimed that it was a national merchandise retailer and assured us that it was not in direct competition with existing businesses. They would later go on to promote their decision at public meetings by saying competition is good for the local economy. The contradiction between these public statements could be indicative of a few things: they didn’t know what the business really was (the name hadn’t been disclosed yet), they were misinforming the public so as not to anger local business owners, they were attempting to leave the store description vague because they knew business owners and community members would oppose. But, the town had already made their decision. It was disclosed later that the developer will build a Dollar General store (the only renegotiation of the contract was to disclose the actual store name). How could they make an informed decision in the best interest of our community before receiving that information? If their initial statement about the Dollar General not being a direct competitor in our market was truthful, why would we want them here? We are not against competition. Economics, one might surmise from the state of the economy, is purely speculative. This isn’t about economics or competition though…

We formed a group at the first whiff of all this: Citizens for Smart Growth. Within a day we had the better part of 100 people discussing this betrayal. Shocked, unaware, people were paralyzed, but they were talking. The decision appeared to be done in vast contrast to our own vision for the community and that instated in our Comprehensive Plan (see Town of Palisade website). And this appears a near if not direct violation of the Sunshine Act.

We interviewed with Grand Junction’s Daily Sentinel and the Palisade Tribune. Immediately the TV news stations got hold of the story. Of course, they interviewed the administration as well (as they should). Tim Sarmo, our town administrator, shifted focus from the logical arguments we’ve posed and the real issue by dismissing our opposition as elitism (in the GJ Sentinel article, which preceded the TV spots). This dictated the conversation with news anchors a bit. We were forced to address the issue of elitism, when this is more about due process and upholding the vision of our community. But our group has, in every public setting and in addressing the media, done our utmost to remain positive. We want growth. We want to see our community flourish. But we don’t want bureaucrats buying town land, selling it at emergency meetings to the first bidder, misinforming the public about their decision, and betraying the vision set forth in their Comprehensive Community Plan.

The people of Citizens for Smart Growth, which is really just a forum for public discourse, is about the free exchange of information and ideas for the town. We are community members, business owners, and loving members of our community. Elitism denotes a sense of entitlement. The only entitlement we’ve expressed is to due process.

Questions Remain

In Dollar General Updates on February 25, 2011 at 8:01 AM

We were pleased to see so many members of the community in attendance at the recent meeting. Many local business owners and concerned citizens voiced their opposition to the Dollar General deal.

It seems clear that the crux of the Board’s decision hinged on saving downtown Palisade by generating new revenue. We appreciate this aim. But they seem to have abandoned the vision of our town to that end. See the Comprehensive Plan for our community. See the results of a survey officials administered here (particularly slide 8).

It is clear that there was confusion, among Board members, surrounding the type of store that the developer intends to build. How could they have even known what the business was, if they voted the “emergency” deal through before the developer renegotiated the contract (the only aspect of the contract changed by the developer was a disclosure of the stores name: Dollar General)? It is common practice for enterprises such as Dollar General to wait until the very last second to disclose what type of goods they offer. Our question is this: how could the board have made an “emergency” decision, unanimously, and furthermore claim that it will be good for our community without knowing exactly what the business was? There were several allusions by Board members to the days of department stores: Woolworths, etc. It seems they made assumptions about the nature of the proposed business based on nostalgia facilitated by a severe lack of information or, more likely, misinformation.

One might infer that they simply accepted the good looking numbers from a developer that wouldn’t even disclose what business they intend to build. Palisade is about local fruit, local wine, art, and small town charm. The Board’s decisions undermine these elements of our community, their own Comprehensive Plan, and public statements they’ve made. Several community members spoke to that.

On a positive note, one success is that the community is talking. Lines of communication are opening.

If we can’t stop this development, we may stop future decisions of this sort. We’ve gotten the people talking about their vision for Palisade’s future. Several Board members thanked us for this. An opportunity lost for innovative economic measures has at least yielded public discourse.

CSG Contacts Dollar General

In Dollar General Updates on February 22, 2011 at 7:36 AM

In a public statement issued to our community, town officials assured us that the business in question will not be a direct competitor. If they are not a direct competitor, how do they intend to survive? If they are a direct competitor, why would the town misinform us? The statement seemed dubious, so a member of our community contacted Dollar General via email to ask some questions pertaining to the Palisade development:

“Dear Sirs, please tell me about the store you have planned for Palisade, Colorado.

We have been assured by the town administration that the store will not directly compete with any of the local businesses. Can you explain how you plan to do that? How does your business-plan take into account not competing with existing businesses?”

A representative from Dollar General’s development department called in response. He stated that it would be absolutely ridiculous for any retailer to put a store in a town and not compete to win all the business in every possible market.  “That is,” he added, “why we offer the best, every day prices on all our merchandise.”

Did Dollar General misinform the town administration about their intentions to compete in the market? That seems unlikely. Did the town administration misinform the public? Why would they do that?

Survey Indicates Palisade Doesn’t Need Box Stores

In Dollar General Updates on February 22, 2011 at 4:13 AM

The most recent survey posted on the Town of Palisade’s website suggests a general antipathy for box stores (check out question 8). In fact, more people desire no new business than a new box store. Are surveys not administered to inform political decision-making. The people clearly don’t want a Dollar General.

 

A Dollar General at the Gateway to Our Community

In Dollar General Updates on February 22, 2011 at 4:02 AM

Town administrators purchased 3 lots near the small urban center of Palisade in March of 2010, under the auspices of protecting the gateway of our community. The Town Planning Commitee’s agenda is purportedly to protect the agri-village charm of Palisade. The Town did not market this property or approach any businesses. But when they were contacted by Franklin Land Associates they hastily rushed to sell the property. In order to do this the Town Board held an executive session and conducted an emergency vote to approve the deal and change an ordinance that would typically require 30 days public notice for the sale. We were completely blindsided.

Until The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction) printed an article on the matter, the majority of this community were unaware of the deal. Most people were dumbfounded, in a state of utter disbelief. We immediately formed a group called Citizens for Smart Growth and started informing people. We contacted our officials and our questions about their duplicitous dealings were met with circumlocution. Our outcry was dismissed: you elected us, we will make these decisions if we deem fit.

We contacted members of the community, family, and friends. Everyone seemed to be in state of disbelief. They’d been shocked and awed by this betrayal. To promote solidarity and hear from other concerned people we held the first meeting for Citizens for Smart Growth. The Mayor and several board members attended. We left the meeting with the sense that the Board made this decision to compete in the modern market and because it was the only, therefore best offer. It will provide jobs they say, it will bring people into our community, it will increase tax revenue. Tax revenue? To what end? To support a governing body that is duplicitous and makes decisions in vast contradiction to the will of the people. This Dollar General Store will likely put our local grocer and other enterprises out of business and nobody in our community wants that. We left with the same answers we’d been given in emails and over the phone. But we knew the fight had only begun. It is clear, from comments made by officials, that this is only one of many similar developments that will be on future agendas. We need numbers at meetings. We need a public voice.

At first our anger was with the town officials, but in fairness we must consider these things: They may have made the decision they deemed best for our community. They may have done it legally. Supposing this is a well-intentioned, legal act, the Town still made their decision in the most clandestine, sneaky way possible. Our elected officials went completely against our vision for the community. This is the primary cause for concern.

Let’s protect our community’s vision.

Dollar General To Build 600 Plus Stores Nationwide

In Dollar General Updates on February 22, 2011 at 3:15 AM

At the meeting CSG held last Saturday, we learned from one town official that Dollar General plans to build over 600 new stores across the country. We are not the only community battling them. Watch this disgruntled citizen of Jackson, Mississippi describe his beef with Dollar General’s invasion (link).

 

Welcome

In Dollar General Updates on February 22, 2011 at 2:38 AM

Welcome to Citizens for Smart Growth. More coming soon…

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