Resident sues town over site plan denial

By John Gardner
The Surveyor

The Town of Berthoud is being sued by a resident after the Berthoud Planning Commission denied a proposed site plan in September 2015.

According to a complaint filed in Larimer County Court in December 2015, Russell Eason, owner of Eason Resources LLC, who was denied approval for a self-storage facility by the Berthoud Planning Commission in September, alleges the planning commission abused their discretion and exceeded their jurisdiction when they denied the proposed site plan for Bargain Storage of Berthoud.

“I just want to build my project within the confines of Berthoud’s codes and ask for the same rights Long’s Peak Storage has been given and not the double standard that seems to exist,” Eason wrote in an email to the Surveyor.

The complaint details the allegations toward the town, its staff, trustees and appointed planning commission members.

Eason applied for approval for a self-storage facility to be located off of First Street in Berthoud in 2014. In June 2015, Eason was advised the site plan for the property was approved. However, according to the complaint, prior to receiving signed documents, Eason claims the town advised him the matter would go before the Town of Berthoud Planning Commission to consider fencing issues.

According to town code, the town administrator can refer a site plan application to the Planning Commission for review and action based on the determination that the proposed development’s complexity, projected impacts, or proximity to conflicting land uses merits such action.

At the September 24 planning meeting, the Surveyor previously reported that Eason was under the impression that the project had already been approved by town staff; however, Community Development Director Curt Freese stated at that meeting that was not the case.

The project includes 1.71 acres located immediately to the west of First Street, extending north from the Franklin Avenue right-of-way to the Turner subdivision. The facility intended to include 166 shipping containers used as storage units.

A staff report to the trustees stated the town administrator decided to toss the site plan review to the planning commission due to its proximity to the northern end of the Peakview Meadows subdivision, and concerns that the proposal was not in compliance with the architectural standards set forth in the town’s development code. The town’s updated development code states that “Containers may not be permitted for use as storage or building purposes without site plan and/or building permit approval.”

According to previous Surveyor reports, Freese offered ideas how to mitigate some of the objections to the proposal, such as including a gate to the facility and landscaping and painting the containers. Eason also suggested to fence in portions of the property to hide the containers from view.

Despite Eason agreeing to provide fencing to hide the storage bins as requested by the town, the planning commission denied the proposal 4-3 on Sept. 24, 2015. Eason appealed the decision and the appeal was referred to the town board of trustees for a final ruling. The Town of Berthoud Board of Trustees undertook the appeal and voted to uphold the planning commission denial at a Nov. 17 hearing.

However, Eason also claims that at that Nov. 17 hearing he wasn’t allowed to present “relevant and material evidence” to support his project and that is why he feels the project was wrongfully denied.

Eason seeks relief, claiming wrongful denial of the site plan and requests the court to award relief pursuant to Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure 106(a)(4).

Trustees held an emergency executive session Tuesday, Jan. 12, but town administrator Mike Hart said that the session had nothing to do with pending litigation.

 

 

Rudy Hemmann contributed to this report