Frisco council members make a case for more retail
FRISCO – When town manager Michael Penny and his staff looked into the future, they saw more red than black.Trends of steadily increasing expenditures and less steadily increasing revenues had him worried about the town’s financial health a few years down the road.And that’s what ultimately convinced him to make a pitch for retail development on the 9.4 acres of town-owned land behind Safeway and the Summit Stage’s Frisco Transfer center. And it’s what convinced the council to vote accordingly Tuesday night.”I have a binder full of wants this community has identified through the public process,” Penny said. “The bottom line is that we’re going to have to start having discussions with this community about the level of services we provide if there’s no additional revenue stream brought in. “Do we maintain the peninsula? Are we going to continue to promote the town through marketing and events? What about core services like police and public works?
“This is not intended to be a threatening, gloom-and-doom discussion,” Penny added. “It’s just a real look at the numbers.”Penny and town treasurer Sandy Jones concluded the town’s revenue and expenditure lines would cross sometime between 2011 and 2013, barring a substantial new source of income for the town – or a reversal in the town’s annually increasing expenditures on services and capital projects. Penny said existing plans call for $45 million in projects during the next 10 to 20 years. Included on the list are recreational amenities on the peninsula such as an ice rink and expanded Nordic center, now in the early design phases.”Five years from now, are we going to have an ability to respond to what people want? I’d rather be prepared for the future instead of having to have discussions like, ‘Well, we have $100,000 and we have $5 million in wants. What are we going to do?'” Penny said.Some citizens who showed up for Tuesday’s meeting appeared to be prepared for just such discussions.”A lot of those plans (for future amenities) were made during greener, more prosperous times,” said Nancy Cook. “In my own household, when times get harder, we have to re-evaluate plans we’ve made.”Other citizens, including County Commissioner Bill Wallace, a Frisco resident, suggested an increase in property tax as an alternative to chasing new sales tax dollars.
Staff estimates peg potential sales tax revenues from a retail development on the so-called 10-acre parcel at about $1 million annually. The figure is based on an assumption of 100,000 square feet of new retail space. The actual acreage of the site is about half that of the commercial area containing Safeway, Wal-Mart and the Frisco Station shopping center.In 2004, Summit Boulevard-area businesses generated about $3.25 million in sales tax revenue for the town. Main Street businesses generated about $1 million.”Our substantial revenue generators do come from retail sales on Summit Boulevard. Main Street is how we define our character and charm. Adding another retail component to Summit Boulevard has a lot of potential,” Penny said. The CMC factorA new Colorado Mountain College (CMC) campus was the only other option for the 10-acre parcel that received serious examination from town staff.
The college’s board of trustees voted in December to consolidate in Frisco rather than remain in its two existing locations in Dillon and Breckenridge.The 10-acre parcel was on the short list of possible CMC sites, but college leadership has not yet picked a favorite location in the town.”I think the most important thing at this point is that the college is open and eager to review any option the town of Frisco is willing to provide,” said CMC Summit dean Leah Bornstein, shortly before the council’s meeting Tuesday. “The town really needs to have this conversation with itself and its constituents and then say, ‘Here are your options.'”Other possible sites for CMC include the Peninsula Recreation Area and the existing Summit Medical Center, whose services will eventually move down the road adjacent to the new hospital now under construction. Selling or leasing a portion of the peninsula land to the college would require a citizen vote.Bornstein considered the 10-acre site a prime location from a marketing perspective, given its visibility from Interstate 70. Its proximity to the Summit Stage transfer center, grocery shopping and gas stations also landed among the pros.
However, the campus may not be big enough to fill the entire 9.4 acres on the parcel, leaving a question mark on what might abut the campus.”Some shared partners are better than others. A multipurpose space and the college would be better than something like a Petco and the college,” Bornstein said.And while the council’s Tuesday vote to support primarily retail development on the parcel knocked CMC down a notch on the list of options, the college isn’t off the list entirely.Council members passed a measure that would preclude any retail developer from breaking ground if the college hasn’t found another acceptable site in town.Next stepsDuring the next few weeks, town staff will create a request for proposal (RFP), through which to seek pitches from developers interested in the 10-acre parcel.
Penny said the RFP will require developers to describe how their proposed projects will address community concerns, including traffic, architecture and impacts to Main Street businesses.The eventual sale or lease of the exact 9.4 acres will be contingent upon a developer’s ability to meet the conditions of the RFP.Penny plans to convene a citizen committee to help review development proposals and/or work with a chosen developer on project details. Citizens interested in participating can contact town hall.The town’s next steps may coincide with continued organizing by angry citizens who have opposed retail development for many months.”The first thing to do would be to get downzoning (through a referendum) on those 9.4 acres,” said Mike McCraken, who lives on Hawn Drive, near the parcel. “Once successful there, maybe we should take a long, hard look at recalling those council members we don’t feel are representing us. I’m a Marine, and I won’t quit fighting. They haven’t seen the last of me.”Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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