BRECKENRIDGE - Evolving plans for the town-owned McCain property on the north side of Breckenridge have one longtime local business at the site closing its doors, after town officials indicated its lease might not be renewed next year.
High Country Furniture, whose iconic wooden bears greet drivers as they approach Breckenridge on Highway 9, is closing after 24 years in business, while the town continues talks with representatives of a gas station interested in the site.
"We wanted to stay," High Country Furniture manager John Fullenkamp said. "We were under the impression that the town loved us and that the community loved us. Now, for whatever reason, the town thinks it's more important to sell the land to a developer."
Though details regarding negotiations between the town and prospective developers have not been made public, Breckenridge officials confirmed they were approached about a gas station on the McCain property and that representatives of the proposed business are currently doing their "environmental due diligence."
Fullenkamp said he has seen people drilling on the property.
But Breckenridge officials insist any discussions regarding the future of the McCain property are still in their infancy.
There are several ideas on the table for uses of various portions of the parcel. A community solar garden is one, water storage another. But it's also possible a portion of land will be reserved for what town officials are calling "service commercial use."
"We are contemplating planning for the McCain property," Breckenridge Mayor John Warner said. "That area has been thought of as a likely place for service commercial businesses. ... This is to avoid seeing that down-valley effect of our service commercial (industry) leaving this valley and going to Silverthorne or wherever the case may be."
But the possibility of a long-standing local business being replaced by gas station - in a town that just last year set out to "reduce automobile dependency," in the SustainableBreck Action Plan - is already drawing pushback from the community.
"Breckenridge does not need another gas station," an online poster named Sara stated on the new EngageBreckenridge.com website. "High Country Furniture is a landmark and an institution in Breckenridge and should not be forced out."
Ten other locals commenting on the site expressed similar sentiments.
Fullenkamp says the business is not being forced out, but choosing not to continue operations on a year-to-year lease that might not be renewed. He said there are no other locations in the county where a business of the size and nature of High Country Furniture could be relocated.
"I feel extremely fortunate that High Country Furniture was allowed to stay on the land through the 12 years town of Breckenridge has owned it," he said.
Breckenridge purchased the McCain property from a private owner in 2000. One third of the parcel's approximately $1 million price tag was covered with open space funds, as the town intended to preserve the portion of the property along the Blue River corridor.
Breckenridge officials say there are no plans in place to sell off the section of land that runs adjacent to the river for development, but there could be. The town is permitted to sell land purchased with open space dollars as long as the money from the sale is returned to the open space fund.
"The intent is for it to stay open space," Breckenridge spokeswoman Kim Dykstra-DiLallo said of the river corridor, which is also a key wildlife migration area. "But it isn't like a land trust."
Breckenridge Town Council members reviewed a staff-created outline of possible uses for the McCain property, which included space for overflow parking, water storage, a community solar garden and commercial uses.
It is not clear what company proposed the gas station.