Plaintiffs: Lowe’s traffic threatens environment, home values
Summit Daily News
Plaintiffs emphasized traffic impacts and the power of one man in the decision to guarantee a Lowe’s Home Improvement store the right to do business in Silverthorne at a hearing Tuesday on a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed against the Town of Silverthorne by four Summit County residents.
Judge Karen Romeo heard the arguments but put off delivering a ruling on the dismissal motion until March 18, saying she did not have enough time to consider the issue and render a decision Tuesday.
The hearing required the residents to prove their suit had standing, which meant showing the town’s decision to classify the Lowe’s as a “right to use” – giving it guaranteed approval – injured their legally protected interests.
The plaintiffs’ attorney Rob Waterman argued the increased traffic drawn to the Lowe’s, estimated at more than 3,000 cars per day, could threaten air quality, the Blue River, property values in the nearby Wildernest and Mesa Cortina subdivisions and emergency-vehicle access to the neighborhoods.
“It was our burden to prove that there was a injury or would be an injury to a legally protected interest” Waterman said in closing. “I think it’s undisputed that health and safety are legally protected interests. There certainly is evidence before the court that the health of the people in the community, including plaintiffs, could be damaged by this Lowe’s.”
Attorneys representing Silverthorne called witnesses to refute the plaintiffs’ claims and argued the suit was an attempt to use the courts to challenge a legislative decision made by the Town of Silverthorne.
Town officials said they hope to have litigation finished as soon as possible, as they are concerned a long delay could cause Lowe’s to lose interest in the Silverthorne store.
The lawsuit has already delayed the project six months.
The store is expected to generate more than $1 million annually in sales tax revenue for the town. Silverthorne residents opposed to the Lowe’s say it would create only a handful of jobs for locals.
The initial lawsuit, brought by Silverthorne residents Deborah Fort and Pamela Bent and Margaret Schweri and Timothy Reidy of Mesa Cortina, challenged the town’s decision to classify the Lowe’s as a hardware store, granting it right-by-use status and a guaranteed right to do business in Silverthorne. They argue the store should be designated a “lumberyard” or “building materials” store, earning it conditional-use status and giving the town more room to negotiate terms with the company.
Waterman challenged the designation decision, which was made by Silverthorne community cevelopment director Mark Leidal without review from town council.
But the process of designation, the defense said, is written in the town code.
Plaintiffs and those who join them in opposition to the store say traffic, competition for locally owned businesses and environmental impacts, particularly on the Blue River, are among their top concerns with the store.
An expert witness testified Tuesday that air pollution from the increased traffic attracted to the Lowe’s store would collect on snowpack and be transferred into the Blue River in the spring runoff.
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