Frisco votes ‘No’ on Home Depot | SummitDaily.com

Frisco votes ‘No’ on Home Depot

DUFFY HAYES
summit daily news

Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk

FRISCO ” Frisco voters cast a resounding vote against big box development in their town Tuesday, shooting down a special election ballot question asking voters to give the inside track to Home Depot to develop a valuable 9.4-acre parcel on the north end of town.

By a vote of 566 against and 425 for, Frisco residents threw cold water on the chance for town officials to enter negotiations with the big box over development on one of the last developable pieces of land within town limits.

At the Backcountry Brewery Tuesday night, opponents of the ballot question met to celebrate.

“Everyone here is extremely happy and pleased with the results, and I think that it’s a very strong statement by the citizens and how they want to see their town handle that piece of property,” said Woody Van Gundy, owner/operator of the Backcountry Brewery, and a leader of the opposition Frisco Business Alliance.

Another vocal Home Depot opponent, George Sherman, whose group Citizens Against Home Depot campaigned vigorously for “No” votes on the question, felt a certain sense of relief Tuesday night.

“This is a vindication of the democratic process and a repudiation of the way the (Frisco) town council has handled this question,” he said.

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Putting past vitriol aside, Van Gundy took a more conciliatory tack.

“I personally want to see a healing process take place in the town because I think it was a divisive issue,” he said. “Let’s all move on from here, and work together, and see what we can do. I think everybody would like to see a way to bring (Colorado Mountain College) to Frisco, and I think that maybe that’s the next thing we can put our heads together on and come up with a viable idea and make that happen.”

Sherman also expressed a desire to see CMC on the property, and that “it was a mistake in the campaign telling people that Home Depot was the only way for Frisco to afford locating CMC in town.”

A decidedly disappointed Chris Eby, whose Friends of Frisco’s Future group was on the losing end of Tuesday’s vote, was concerned the vote was evidence of a greater issue among town residents.

“I think that within the voting population of Frisco, there seems to be a significant group of people who just don’t trust what’s going on in town,” Eby said.

The loss of potential revenue is an issue that isn’t going away any time soon, he explained.

“The real issue right now is that the ‘No’ folks have an important majority, and I think they need to decide what to do with that. The result of this vote is that the town is not going to have the sales tax revenues they were hoping to see generated by whatever goes on that property,” Eby said.

“I hope that this group of folks who have effectively voted Home Depot down can now put together some answers about what needs to be cut out, because that’s the only alternative now,” Eby added.

The “No” vote by Friscoites isn’t the final word on development on the town’s valuable property on the north side of town. Voters’ discouragement of the proposed negotiations puts the town back at square one essentially, as the town still ultimately controls the fate of the land.

While town officials said Tuesday’s vote effectively ends the town’s relationship with Home Depot, they could go back to other developers who were involved in the original planning process, come up with another special election ballot question for voters to decide on at a later date, or even do nothing.

Voters made their decision with no lack of specifics, however, as many of the parameters proposed in the relationship between Home Depot and the town were enumerated by language within the ballot question. As part of the special election question, town officials specifically earmarked where revenues from a new Home Depot ” estimated at more than $1.1 million the first year ” would be spent.

The Frisco town council identified open space, parks, recreational and cultural amenities, an intra-town transportation system, and other improvements to streets and sanitation as specific areas where the extra cash would be spent.

Home Depot made a number of promises in their proposal as well, spelled out in a section of the passed ballot question describing “minimum community benefits.” At a minimum, Home Depot would have provided $200,000 to go toward affordable housing, $25,000 to the Frisco Historical Society, a new recycling drop-off center, $500,000 for construction of a new ball field, a new children’s playground and aesthetic public art on the developed property.

But for Frisco voters, the scenario wasn’t rewarding enough for them to take the plunge, at least in as far as opening the door to negotiations with Home Depot.

In terms of turnout for the special election, a substantial number of Frisco residents turned out to vote despite fairly terrible weather.

According to Linda Lichtendahl, community relations director for the town of Frisco, a special question was on the November 1993 ballot about a proposed golf course on the peninsula, and 625 votes were cast then. In the last municipal election, in April 2004, only 510 votes were cast. However in a November 2002 election, where a couple of Frisco issues were on the ballot, 1,096 votes were cast.

This election, a total of 991 votes were cast.

” Kim Marquis contributed to this story.

Duffy Hayes can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13611, or at dhayes@summitdaily.com.