Morrison looking to create overlay district

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By Deborah Swearingen

In the midst of a continued period of growth, Morrison town officials are working on a plan to preserve the character of their town.

Called the Old Town Overlay District, the plan – if approved – would create rules and regulations that future businesses must adhere by in order to open in downtown Morrison. The town’s planning commission is tasked with determining and codifying what is important to the town.

“The town board usually comes up with some overall goals and things that they want to accomplish,” said Jamee Chambers, chairwoman of the Morrison planning commission. “If they fall within the sorts of things that the planning commission is empowered to do by state law then we take that on.”

In this case, Chambers noted, the town has said one of its goals is to “keep Morrison, Morrison.”

“We want to try to preserve the feeling and the atmosphere of Morrison by doing this,” she said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”

Working with town planner Carrie McCool and her company McCool Development Solutions, the planning commission has created a project plan for the Old Town Overlay District. With a target budget of approximately $10,000 – more than $30,000 less than its initial request – the project will focus on maintaining the architectural character of Morrison. This could include creating rules for scale, height and mass, as well as features such as roofs, windows and entrances.

The first step of the project kicks off Tuesday evening with a walking tour of the town, where the planning commission will aim to identify what “makes Morrison, Morrison.” It will go through a typical approval process, with open public hearings before the final version of the plan is brought before the Morrison town board for approval or denial.

The goal is to complete the Old Town Overlay District project by September, though Chambers said if the commission would be doing well if it completes the project by the end of the year.

But Chambers and members of the town board recognize that problems may arise when dealing with business owners who feel they have too many regulations as it is.

“What makes Morrison, Morrison is that it’s eclectic, not that it’s a particular architectural style,” said board member Katie Gill. “I can see there’s probably some concern about how much regulation there will be.”

Trying to identify specific characteristics of the town that are enforceable for businesses is complicated, and Gill fears the project could be “mission impossible.”

“It has to be flexible,” Gill added.

If approved, the district would not be under guidelines but instead a town law.

“That’s the tricky part,” Chambers said. “Business owners … don’t want another level of being told what it is they can and can’t do with their building.”

But for now, she remains optimistic and maintains that it’s important for the success of the town.

“We need to be able to give some direction to people who are coming here and wanting to invest,” Chambers said.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042.