Harley backers won’t give up
SILVERTHORNE – Proponents of a Silverthorne Harley-Davidson shop are revved up by the town council’s denial last week of the project’s sketch plan. They say council members “caved in” to the demands of homeowners who objected to the idea of hearing Harleys’ signature noise in their neighborhood.
“It came out of the blue to us because we thought we had a use-by-right,” said Al Parker, a spokesman for Freedom Harley-Davidson. “It seemed the commissioners just caved in under the six or seven people who were concerned about the noise.”
Parker and others involved in the project say they won’t let the proposal stall. He believes the project can be changed to soothe neighbors’ fears.
“I’m discouraged, but I’m not giving up,” Parker said. “We can’t make a Harley sound like a BMW, but there are things we can do to mitigate (neighbors’ fears).”
Parker met with Silverthorne planning staff Wednesday to talk about his options for moving the project forward.
The Silverthorne Town Council unanimously denied the sketch plan last week. The owners of Lakewood’s Freedom Harley-Davidson want to build a second shop, a 10,000-square-foot building on Tanglewood Lane in Silverthorne, across the street from the Village Inn. While it’s zoned commercial, the lot abuts land zoned residential.
Council members said the proposal doesn’t meet the town’s architectural requirements – an issue Parker said could be remedied easily -but noise concerns prompted the most discussion. While council members said they’d like to see the business come to town, several of them also said the location – so close to homes – just doesn’t work.
Silverthorne Community Development Director Mark Leidal said the Harley proponents do have some options, but acknowledged their current application is dead.
“They have choices,” he said. “One is to try to address some concerns and resubmit a new application or find another site. One of my recommendations was they definitely need to work with the neighborhood to mitigate the impacts.”
As a staff member, Leidal said he couldn’t comment on the legality of the council’s decision, but he said the council’s findings will be approved during the Sept. 11 meeting. Council is scheduled to seal its decision then by approving a written summary of those reasons.
Realtor Eddie O’Brien, who is working with property owner Verald Easterly to sell the 1.3-acre parcel to Harley, is furious about the council’s decision. He’s circulating flyers to business owners in Silverthorne, urging them to attend the next town council meeting and voice their objections to the sketch plan denial.
“This is basically a taking,” said O’Brien, who himself owns an undeveloped commercial lot in Silverthorne. “The use is use-by-right and it’s written right into (Silverthorne’s) book.
“If someone can’t trust the town to preserve their property rights and zoning, there isn’t a bank in the world that will issue a loan on it. And that’s taking.”
O’Brien said he stands to earn a commission on the sale – he would not divulge the amount – but said that’s not what’s driving him.
“The No. 1 issue here is property rights,” he said. “Property rights are absolutely critical and must be protected. (Easterly) has done everything to protect his property rights, and in a 15-minute conversation, they tried to wipe that slate clean and say, “You can’t do that.'”
Easterly is familiar with all the issues neighbors have cited. His home is the closest to the property, built on the next lot down Tanglewood Lane. He argued last week that the neighborhood, situated near Interstate 70 and Highway 9, is already noisy.
It’s not the first time Easterly said he’s worked to get a project completed on that land.
“I’ve been trying to get this piece of ground developed for a long time,” Easterly said. “Every time I’ve gotten near something, something has come up and the town has quashed it one way or another.
“Right now, I’m just kind of devastated and I don’t know which way to turn. But I’m not surprised. The city’s been doing dumb things for a long time, as far as I’m concerned.”
Easterly said he can’t rule out the idea of legal action.
“I don’t really see how we can make a change without taking it to court,” he said. “At this point, we don’t really have too many options. That’s one that could be made to happen and be binding.”
But Parker said Harley-Davidson isn’t looking down that road.
“We don’t want to take legal action because that’s not in the best interest of anyone,” he said. “This came out of the blue because we thought we had a use by right. If I were a neighbor, would I want a Harley dealership right there? Probably not. But that’s not what I understand a (Silverthorne) commissioner’s job is. I understand a commissioner’s job is to see the good of the community.
“Silverthorne is based on retail. With $2.5 million in (annual) sales … we thought this was a great fit.”
Parker added that the site is the only one in Silverthorne he believes Harley will consider. The company, he said, has strict criteria about its shops, and wants them close to major traffic generators such as I-70 and Highway 9.
Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at email@example.com
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