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New future for 9.4 acres?

HARRIET HAMILTONSummit Daily News

FRISCO – Frisco’s commitment to commercial development of its controversial 9.4-acre parcel was called into question Tuesday at the town council’s work session, when town manager Michael Penny presented council members with three alternative methods to help decide on the parcel’s future.The three options range from one involving minimal public input to one that essentially goes back to the drawing board and solicits citizen comment at every step.Although no decision was made Wednesday, several councilmembers expressed the opinion that a thorough public process is necessary and that decisions about the type of use for the parcel should be included in the conversation.”We need to establish a need with where we’re going as a town,” Councilmember Bill Pelham said after the meeting. “People are not going to want to see anything on that piece of property until we do that.”In 2002, the Frisco town council, faced with harsh post-9/11 economic forecasts, voted to rezone the vacant town-owned property located along I-70 behind Wal-Mart from “Parks and Recreation” to “Accommodations District.” The purpose of the rezoning was to promote development of an auto-oriented commercial shopping area.The council took the idea one step further in February 2005 with a resolution that supported active development of the property. The exact wording of the resolution called for the town “To dispose of …the 9.4-acre parcel, and declares Council support of a predominately retail use on such site.”Frisco voters rejected a proposal in December to negotiate with The Home Depot to develop the property. Since then, the council has been reluctant to take any action on the parcel. A February 2006 proposal by Penny to hire a small group facilitator to develop a plan was tabled by the council because of the pending April election. In the election, Kent Willis and Woody Van Gundy, both active in the anti-Home Depot movement, garnered the two highest vote totals and a shift in the council’s approach to the parcel seemed likely.Penny said he believes councilmembers are in general agreement that development should take place on the parcel, but the decision-making process about any development is of primary concern.”There were some folks out there who voted no on Home Depot for no other reason than exception to the process,” he said. The goal of each of the three options he presented to council is to clarify the process and find an alternative that the town can accept. Councilmember Dan Fallon was enthusiastic about the option that called for the most public-council interaction, but questioned the practicality of the 2005 resolution.”What do we need the money for?” he asked, referring to potential revenue generated by a commercial use of the parcel. “(The question) hasn’t been answered.”Councilmember Tom Looby echoed Fallon’s concerns when he said the town’s long-term economic situation needs to understood more thoroughly before any steps should be taken to develop the property.Community activist Mike McCraken was present at the meeting and agreed the resolution needs to be re-examined.”They never did demonstrate a need (for commercial development),” he said. “It would be a great demonstration of sincerity for the council to vacate that resolution.”Once the council has had time to examine the three options presented Tuesday, the plan is for them to talk to town citizens, get feedback and discuss the options again at the June 27 work session.Same property, different nameDuring Tuesday’s town council work session, the 9.4-acre parcel was referred to in both documents and conversation as the “Interstate Parcel.” Town manager Michael Penny is not sure who coined the term, but said the new moniker is quickly catching on at town hall.”Somebody called it that one day, and there was essentially silent consent to using it,” he said.Most town memos still include the phrase “formerly known as the 9.4-acre parcel,” but Penny said he hopes the new name eventually phases out the old, allowing the town to “start fresh on all of it.”Harriet Hamilton can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at hhamilton@summitdaily.com.


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