Frisco in talks to move historic Staley House and sell land to Foote’s rest
Frisco is currently considering a proposal to sell the land underneath the historic Staley house on Main Street to Kelly Foote, owner of the Foote’s Rest sweet shop next door. Foote plans to build a 45-unit hotel with a restaurant, patio and underground bowling alley.
According to the proposal, the town would move the Staley House to an undetermined location. The adjacent property, which contains five historic structures including Foote’s Rest, would also be put under a preservation covenant to protect them permanently.
The project began in earnest about a year ago when the town told the Staley House’s former tenant, the High Country Conservation Center (HC3), that it was considering selling the land. HC3, which needed more space for its growing staff, moved to a bigger location in Dillon at the end of October, clearing the way for the potential deal.
During initial negotiations, the town had considered selling the plot to another developer, Jeff Counihan, who hoped to restore the Staley House to its original state and move it closer to the street in the corner of the lot. Next to it, he would’ve built a combination commercial-residential development.
The town floated the idea of splitting the parcel and selling Foote and Counihan each one lot, but Foote was only interested in buying both, said Frisco community and development director Joyce Allgaeier, who was involved in negotiations in a non-decision making role.
Ultimately, the town decided to go with Foote, who plans to build a boutique hotel, a bar and restaurant, a bowling alley and three employee housing units. They cited concerns that if Foote didn’t get the parcel, the historic properties on his lot might be at risk.
“There was some concern on our part that Foote’s Rest would have been gone unless we came to the table,” said Councilwoman Deborah Shaner.
While that building is on both the state and national register of historic places, that status doesn’t confer any protections, and Foote is free to tear them down — unless the deal goes through and the property is placed in the historic covenant.
“Council really felt there is more at stake not working with Foote, because if he didn’t have extra lots, he could raze the historic properties on his properties,” said Allgaeier.
Foote said he and his family have no intention of tearing down their historic buildings. He moved here in 2010 after his grandmother, who owned Foote’s rest, passed away. Foote became embroiled in a spat with some of his family members who wanted to tear the structures down to make way for a major development, but, ultimately, he prevailed and was able to save the historic buildings.
“The Foote Family and other property owners have the right to develop their property as the Town code allows. My grandparents bought the Foote’s Rest property 70 years ago,” he said in a statement. “The preservation of our family legacy and Town character is of the utmost importance to us. We have worked hard with town council to come up with a plan to preserve, protect and restore the historical structures that have become emblematic of the Town of Frisco. Our project puts Foote’s Rest and other important structures under an Historical Overlay District while also conserving the Staley House for our Town.”
“As part of the deal, the historic covenant placed on the entire parcel would preserve five structures,” said Shaner. “We wanted the most historic preservation we could get.”
While Counihan, who owns the property on the other side of the Staley parcel, said he was disappointed to be passed over despite his willingness to buy only one lot, he hopes that the community gets involved in deciding what to do with the historic structure. He stressed that he isn’t bitter about the decision but merely wants the public to weigh in on moving the Staley House.
The town council approved the first reading of the proposal at their regular bi-monthly meeting, which fell inopportunely on election night. (The council meets every second and fourth Tuesday.) It will be up for second reading and public comment at the council’s Dec. 13 meeting, and if approved then, the sale will go through.
Elizabeth Adrian, who recognized the Staley House address in a public meeting agenda displayed in the post office, said she was frustrated by what she felt was short notice — and that the reading was conducted while most people were glued to the television watching the votes come in.
“My goal has been to create a public conversation about historic preservation,” she said. “Over the past 22 years, I’ve watched so many of the original buildings go away. It’s kind of like living in a petting zoo.”
“I want our citizens to be comfortable and for this to be transparent,” said Shaner. “This is the process, and sometimes it can move a little slower. But we invite people (to) send us emails, letters, come to meetings.”
Where the Staley House would be moved is still an open question. Some possibilities, Shaner said, include the clock tower area next to Town Hall or the snow removal lot near the corner of Highway 9 and Main Street.
“This is a bigger picture than just the Staley House,” said Shaner. “We really think this (development) is going to be a great addition to Main Street.”
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