Frisco approves new gas station at troubled Interstate 70 intersection
November 29, 2017
The Frisco Town Council approved a new gas station at the troubled intersection of Summit Boulevard and Interstate 70 on Tuesday night, overriding a denial by the planning commission and two council members concerned about safety and congestion at the town's biggest transit choke point.
The 5-2 vote cleared the way for a new Kum N Go gas station and convenience store in the east parking lot of the Baymont Inn on Lusher Court. In approving the project, council members noted that the lot's poor configuration wasn't the fault of Kum N Go, which has been modifying its plan for two years to address the concerns of town staff.
"The applicant has done a tremendous job trying to meet every issue brought up by this site," councilwoman Kim Cancelosi said. "That's a town error. That's not an error we can place on them."
In 2013, a previous town council re-subdivided the Baymont Inn parcel, creating a new lot on the east side of the parking lot that shares a road access with the hotel. That makes the entrance to the property a tight squeeze, particularly for trailers and RVs that might pull in to refuel at one of the future station's five pumps.
Complicating matters is the troubled future of the adjacent intersection of Highway 9 and I-70, which has been strained by nearby development and has even more residential and commercial construction in the pipeline.
The Colorado Department of Transportation, expecting congestion in the area to increase, has listed an overhaul of the interchange as a top-priority project.
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A CDOT spokeswoman said the agency has few details about the project pending a traffic study, but planning documents indicate it could include doubling a current traffic roundabout to two lanes and widening the bridge over the interstate.
"That intersection has become more of a hub for I-70 and beyond the Frisco community," councilman Hunter Mortensen said during the meeting. "One stalled car there can do an amazing amount of damage to the greater community."
After some hesitation, Mortensen joined four other members in voting 'yes,' citing Kum N Go's years-long efforts to accommodate the town's concerns. Councilwoman Jessie Burley and councilman Dan Kibbie cast the two 'no' votes.
"I struggle with the fact that we're being asked to approve something that I truly believe is not the best thing for that intersection," Burley said.
The planning commission rejected Kum N Go's proposal in September, concerned that the addition of a gas station at that location could create unsafe traffic conditions.
Company representatives countered that two traffic consultants, including one contracted by the town, agreed that changes the company had made to its plan convinced them that the small stretch of Lusher Court would still be safe.
Kum N Go said its plan uses traffic projections extending to 2035. But growth near the highway intersection, serving as a main entrance to town and a key interchange with Dillon Dam Road, has planners increasingly concerned.
A 25-unit, mixed-use condominium building is currently in the works at the Basecamp shopping center just down the street, and other nearby parcels are being eyed for development as well.
The area also serves as an important transportation hub, with local and regional busses running through the Frisco Transit Center just a block away. That entire complex is slated for a multimillion dollar overhaul next summer. The center currently sees roughly 1,000 travelers per day, which is expected to increase with a planned expansion of CDOT's Bustang service.
The biggest workforce-housing complex in the county, Lake Hill, is also being planned nearby on Dillon Dam Road. The traffic implications of those 436 units have given the Summit County government pause, and officials are leery of barreling ahead with construction if it would mean crippling the Frisco intersection.
During Tuesday's meeting, the Frisco council raised concerns about the combined impact of all these projects. But Bill Gibson, the town's assistant community development director, pointed out that Kum N Go shouldn't be hostage to unknowns.
"We don't know for sure what CDOT is going to do" at the intersection, he said. "It's very difficult to hold a property owner or an application accountable for some future project that's to-be-determined."
Despite concerns over the tight lot access and the intersection overall, the majority of council members ultimately decided to override the planning commission's decision, reasoning that Kum N Go's project alone wouldn't spell doom for commuters.
"We survived Whole Foods, we survived Basecamp, we survived Starbucks…" said councilwoman Deborah Shaner, an engineer. "That intersection is probably the worst we have in town, but I don't think this will be what breaks it."
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