Helen’s Store property may get makeover

Geologic slump hazard is concern

A proposal has been submitted to La Plata County for a liquor store and restaurant to be built where the historic Helen’s Store stands at 9669 Florida Road (County Road 240). Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

A proposal has been submitted to La Plata County for a liquor store and restaurant to be built where the historic Helen’s Store stands at 9669 Florida Road (County Road 240).

La Plata County commissioners have approved a conceptual development plan for commercial development of the Helen’s Store property at 9669 Florida Road (County Road 240).

The commissioners gave the first level of approval to the 4.9-acre proposal earlier this month. The applicants are Donald and Nicole Hutchins of 3669 County Road 240. They want to build a 900-square-foot liquor store and a 2,000-square-foot restaurant.

They propose to do this in two phases. Phase one would include the liquor store to be built about 300 feet southwest of Helen’s Store – which would be abandoned – and most of the infrastructure for the entire development. The second phase would include the restaurant and its parking. An existing trailer home would also be removed.

Each phase will go through a permit process. That’s when the applicants will have to show adequate water, sewer and access. Signs, lighting and hours of operation also will be addressed at that stage. The applicants have done a traffic study showing that no turn-lane improvements will be needed, and the county Public Works Department has agreed.

County planner John Deagan said traffic generated by the project is not expected to overload Florida Road or reduce the road’s level of service. It also is not expected to cause any adverse change to the character of the neighborhood because the property has previously been commercial, he said. It will mainly serve the needs of the neighborhood.

The property is within the Florida River’s 100-year flood zone, so the development will have to satisfy Federal Emergency Management Agency flood regulations.

County Planning staff recommended approval of the conceptual development plan with three conditions, including additional study of a geologic slump hazard across the street and how it might be mitigated.

Applicant representative Nancy Lauro argued against that.

“I didn’t realize that condition was added,” she said.

The applicants hired Trautner Geotech to study the slump, resulting in a five-page letter to the county.

According to the letter, which Lauro read, the study found that “it’s unlikely that the conditions will develop to cause a catastrophic slide.”

“The slide has slipped for years and years. It’s not on this property. The old development is significantly more at risk than the new development. ...” Lauro read from the letter.

Lauro asked the commissioners to act on the plan even if it includes the condition of more study of the slump.

“We thought we had addressed the condition already. It was reviewed by (the Building Department) and Public Works, and they were OK with it,” Lauro said.

Two neighbors commented on the proposal. Their main concerns were the liquor store, possible noise and rowdy behavior.

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