Frisco Town Council gives final OK of historic Staley House property
December 14, 2016
The Frisco Town Council approved on Tuesday night the sale of land under the historic Staley House, which will be moved to an undetermined location to make way for a development. The split vote clears the way for a 45-unit hotel, eatery and bowling alley proposed by Kelly Foote, who owns the adjacent sweet shop and restaurant Foote's Rest. The deal also places the historic structures on that property under permanent protection.
On election night, council passed the ordinance on first reading, creating a rift between residents who felt blindsided by the impending sale and councilmembers who affirmed their support for it Tuesday night. Residents urged council to table the ordinance and get more public input.
Council, however, decided it had heard enough, voting 4-to-2 to proceed. Kim Cancelosi and Dan Kibbie both voted no, and Jessie Burley recused herself because of ties to the building's previous tenant.
The episode highlighted tensions over Frisco's approach to historic preservation, which favors voluntary preservation, and the transparency of its land sale process.
"I don't like the idea that there's been so little public input," said Frisco resident Kurt Mosher. "I think a fair amount of people here want to give this a little more time and a little more public input. A lot of people like myself came to light on this issue very, very recently."
Supporters of the project, which included several residents and two out-of-town developers with stakes in the project, said it was good for the town and that the yearlong process to negotiate the sale had been above-board.
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"It always amazes me how any time there's any development and town council is tasked with making decisions for people it starts going down this path," said Tony Costello, who owns several businesses in town. "There's never any people at these meetings… as soon as something gets contentious, it's a packed house full of concerned citizens saying, 'We didn't know about this.'"
The Staley sale was on two meeting agendas prior to the election night vote, but the issue was tabled each time.
Out with the old
The prospect of moving the Staley House, which was built in 1909 and possesses rare architectural features, also riled some locals; moving the house would strike it from the Colorado Register of Historic Properties.
Councilmembers spun the deal as getting the most possible preservation through an overlay that will permanently protect Foote's Rest, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and five cabins on the Foote property that aren't listed.
During discussion, members didn't shy from the tough spot the impending vote put them in.
"This is gut-wrenching," said councilmember Deborah Shaner. "No matter what decision we make, we will lose the trust of some of you. None of us are disengaged, incompetent or hate historical preservation. If you don't get your way, it's not because we didn't listen."
Kim Cancellosi, the lone "no" voter on election night, sharply rebuked her fellow councilmembers, saying their failure to change the town code to block big developments opens the door for a massive structure if they sell the property to Foote.
She also doubled down on a claim that Foote strong-armed the council by threatening to demolish his historic buildings if the town didn't sell. That claim couldn't be independently confirmed, and Foote has repeatedly denied it.
"The Foote family is very excited to preserve Foote's Rest and the structures that have been on the property since the 1880s," he said. "We thank the town council and staff for working with our family and creating the best solution for Frisco. We were faced with many lies and miscommunication from several local residents and hopefully, moving forward, we can demonstrate to the community that we truly care about Frisco and historical preservation."
After the vote, a crowd of frustrated citizens gathered in the lobby. A petition circulated, but it's unclear how the sale could now be undone. The process will move to the Planning and Zoning Commission, where the details of the development will be ironed out and sent to a final council vote next year.
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