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Durango City Council to host public hearing on proposed ordinance concerning fire district

Councilors seek more feedback before choosing to adopt petitioned measure or to send it to voters
The Durango School District 9-R Board of Education sold its Administration Building to the Durango Fire Protection District in December. The fire district hopes to turn the building into its new downtown fire station. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Durango City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to schedule a public hearing to further discuss a draft ordinance that would change the planning process for fire and police developments within the Central Business District.

A petition to change the ordinance was submitted by residents in response to a perceived lack of public involvement in the Durango Fire Protection District’s acquisition of the former Durango School District 9-R Administration Building.

City Council scheduled a hybrid in-person and virtual public hearing for 6 p.m. May 26 in which residents will have the opportunity to express their thoughts about Durango Fire Protection District’s bid to make the former 9-R building its new downtown station.

Councilors have two options in addressing the draft ordinance: They can adopt the draft ordinance with no significant changes, which would also require a second reading, tentatively scheduled for 2 p.m. May 31. Or they can choose to hold a special election and put the proposed ordinance into voters’ hands.

City Councilor Melissa Youssef said she favors allowing the public another opportunity to speak about the proposed fire station. On top of that, she wants to hear feedback from the city Planning Commission – whether it would recommend adopting the proposed ordinance.

Councilor Kim Baxter also said she wants to hear from the Planning Commission ahead of the May 26 public hearing.

The draft ordinance was petitioned by Citizens Voice Durango, a coalition of residents and business owners. It would alter the planning classification of police and fire districts and require public hearings over DFPD’s proposal to move into the former 9-R Administration Building.

The draft ordinance would amend police and fire stations from “allowable use” to “conditional use” in the city’s land-use development code.

Allowed uses simply undergo administrative review by the planning department while conditional uses necessitate a public hearing with the Planning Commission, which could then refer the matter to City Council.

Citizens Voice Durango submitted the draft ordinance to City Council after it gathered 1,118 signatures.

Seven hundred sixty-eight valid signatures were required for City Council to consider the ordinance. Citizens Voice Durango collected at least 771 valid signatures, although the clerk’s office did not verify the remaining signatures once it determined enough valid signatures had been collected to send the ordinance to councilors, said Greg Hoch, a petitioner.

Citizens Voice Durango organized the petition in response to the sale of the former 9-R Administration Building by Durango School District 9-R to the Durango Fire Protection District. Residents have long requested public hearings about the potential use of the 9-R Administration Building by the fire district.

The school and fire districts each hosted a virtual public hearing on Dec. 14 and March 10 respectively but only responded to pre-vetted questions and did not allow public input during the hearings, to the dissatisfaction of residents and petitioners who urged councilors to adopt the draft resolution on Tuesday.

cburney@durangoherald.com

This story has been updated to clarify that the May 26 public meeting scheduled by Durango City Council will be held in person and virtually on Zoom. The in-person meeting will be held at City Hall.

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