Meadow Creek parcel has convoluted history
FRISCO – At Tuesday’s town council meeting, Frisco officials voted to table the issue of continuing negotiations on a proposed shopping center on the town’s Meadow Creek parcel behind Safeway. More than 80 people attended the meeting and nearly everyone in attendance spoke against development.
The last large plot of developable land in town, the Meadow Creek parcel is also coveted by nearby neighbors for its wetlands, wildlife habitat and buffer it provides between homes and Interstate 70. Residents also are concerned commercial development could compete with Main Street’s independent businesses, and therefore threaten Frisco’s small mountain town character.
Many people suggested downzoning the property, but it is unclear how the town will proceed on future plans for the land.
In the meantime, residents have asked about the parcel’s history and how the town came to acquire it. The following information was culled from more than 10 years of Summit Daily News archives.
Frisco, schools, county
In 1994, members of a transportation advisory committee cooked up the idea to build a large transfer center to alleviate local traffic congestion. The Meadow Creek parcel, then owned by Summit School District, was mentioned as a potential site.
The school district responded that it was open to selling the parcel and would give the Summit Stage first dibs. The property was estimated at approximately 27 acres with 10 acres of wetlands.
On May 1 1995, the parties announced an agreement for the county to purchase the property for $500,000 from the school district.
According to 1995 reports, the deal was sailing along smoothly. Stage director Amy Ostrander presented development plans to Frisco in May for the transit center. But then Frisco verbally offered to pay the school district more than its $500,000 asking price, also offering to give the Stage 5 acres for its transit center.
The offer was turned down.
“It’s surprising the county would turn down the opportunity to save taxpayers money and deny the school district extra money,” said then-town manager Clay Brown, who had been hired in January 1995.
Ostrander replied the reason the offer was rejected was because the site offered for transportation was too small.
“It’s come back to me that we’re supposedly playing hard ball with the Stage in order to find a new home for Wal-Mart,” Brown said in May 1995. “Yes, we’d like to own that land, and we’d like to be in control of its development. We were hoping to walk away from this with a transfer center and a new retail space. We were hoping to be able to enhance our sales tax revenues.”
A long process ensued with negotiations held among the county, town, Summit Stage and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), which was involved because of a state transportation grant that would help pay for the project.
News stories indicate offers and counter-offers were dubbed “unrealistic” and “arbitrary,” so a commercial land appraisal was eventually done. The school district wanted Frisco to pay commercial market value for the land since Frisco said it intended to develop the property for retail purposes.
Wal-Mart back and forth
An agreement was finally signed by all three parties in April 1996. Frisco received a three-year option to purchase the 9.45-acre parcel it owns today. The fixed price was $3 per square foot or $1,232,312.
The price for the county’s acreage was $152,000 for the 6.2-acre parcel that is currently the site of the Stage Transfer Center. The county’s deal also included 10 acres of wetlands, which were deemed undevelopable.
Frisco waited its three years to purchase the property. In the meantime, in late 1995, Wal-Mart ditched Frisco as a potential site for a new store and moved to Silverthorne, where enough land might be available for a 180,000-square-foot superstore.
The issue remained quiet in Frisco while Silverthorne residents held a contentious election on annexing and purchasing land for Wal-Mart. Negotiations in Silverthorne dragged on for more than a year and ended in October 1997 when Wal-Mart pulled out of Silverthorne.
Then, Wal-Mart was back in Frisco negotiating for a smaller (100,000-square-foot) store on the Meadow Creek parcel.
“They have come back to the community they said they were leaving,” Brown said at the time. “We’ll see if they’ve learned their lesson.”
In 1998, Best Western Lake Dillon Lodge manager Scott Brunvand addressed the town with an idea to build a convention center in Frisco. The Meadow Creek parcel was a potential site, but town officials responded that Wal-Mart’s future was still uncertain and nothing concrete had been decided as to the store’s plans.
In March of 1999, the town considered a proposal to rezone the Meadow Creek parcel to auto-oriented commercial. A group of neighbors circulated petitions, wrote letters and showed up at council meetings to protest the move. Petitions included more than 300 signatures. Council decided not to rezone.
Shortly thereafter the town exercised its purchase agreement on the land and zoned it parks and recreation. Town officials have since said the land was zoned parks and recreation for lack of a better choice.
Still weighing options
In May 2002, Don Sather, owner of the Big Horn Center in SIlverthorne, voiced interest in purchasing the parcel, saying he didn’t want to see a Super Wal-Mart in town. Town officials said they had spoken with several other developers aside from Sather, and that Wal-Mart officials were conducting economic studies to evaluate the land for a superstore location.
But the parcel still had not been rezoned for development.
In July 2002, Frisco hired an economic development consultant to address, among other things, the best use for the Meadow Creek parcel.
In September 2002, council rezoned the Meadow Creek parcel from parks and recreation to accommodations to allow for affordable housing with commercial development.
More than 50 people filled the council chambers for the ordinance’s second reading, where citizens spoke both in support of the rezoning and in opposition. Assistant town manager Theresa Casey said Wal-Mart and Sather were still the major interested parties. The Summit Medical Center had also inquired about the property but town officials were not considering that option.
By the end of the year, Wal-Mart representatives visited the Meadow Creek parcel and determined the property was too small for a superstore. The company opted to invest in renovations of its current store on Summit Boulevard instead of pursuing a new location.
In April 2003, Frisco elected officials considered a report from its economic development consultant that suggested ideas for the Meadow Creek parcel.
The one council seemed to like involved combining the site with the Frisco Transfer Center (which is still owned by the county) and constructing a mixed-use complex such as a convention center with housing, retail and a park. Redevelopment costs were estimated at $18.3 million.
In December of last year, town council voted to enter into an agreement with Alberta Development Partners to explore the feasibility of a 120,000-square-foot shopping center on the site with up to six national retailers. The agreement expires in 16 days.
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