Meeker board strikes down former hospital lot rezoning

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MEEKER I The Town of Meeker’s board meeting was filled to bursting Tuesday as concerned citizens gathered to express their opinions on a request to rezone the old hospital lot.
The parcel, located at Third and Cleveland streets, is currently zoned as a single family residential lot, but a request by the Eastern Rio Blanco Health District sought to change that to mixed-use residential (MRA). The MRA designation would allow for multi-family units to be built on the lot.
According to Pioneers Medical Center’s CEO Ken Harman, the purpose of the request was to attract buyers.

“We do believe that providing this designation gives us the opportunity to have a more marketable product,” he stated.
The rezoning would also be a step toward Better City’s preliminary development plan for the property. Better City aims to address some of the shortcomings of the current housing market by finding a developer to build 48 townhome-type units on the lot.
After completing a housing feasibility study earlier in the year, Better City determined a grossly uneven renter-to-owner ratio in the housing market was a symptom of inadequate affordable quality housing.
For citizens in attendance, the “what ifs” involved in an MRA designation were too much to stomach. Although there is no developer or solid plan for the town homes, many residents expressed concerns about traffic, noise, views, property values and a variety of other issues. The group asked the board to carefully consider potential repercussions before voting.
“I’d like to ask you to seriously consider tabling this until after the first of the year; it has been put out to the public but it has not been put out for public input,” said Pat Daggett, a local artist and Meeker resident. “Give it some time; the public has no clue what Better City has given.”
Kelly Sullivan, who lives near the property, asked the board to stay their decision “until we can see what we’re actually getting and what we’re trying to do here.”
It was also noted that the county administration will feature fresh faces come January, which could change the game entirely.
“I can only hope that our commissioners continue to support the money we’ve already put into it,” said Town Administrator Scott Meszaros regarding the project.
After almost two hours of back and forth discussion, the board ultimately struck down the rezoning.
“It opens up a can of worms and once that can is open we do not have a lid,” said Mayor Regas Halandras.
Harman stated he was “disappointed” in the decision, but the hospital’s ultimate goal is “very much to be respectful of the community.”