S’thorne council approves Lowe’s ESTIP agreement
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SILVERTHORNE – The Silverthorne Town Council approved an agreement Tuesday night that will require Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse to make improvements to roads, intersections and other public infrastructure as the company constructs a planned 111,000-square-foot retail store and attached 27,000-square-foot garden center at the corner of Buffalo Mountain Drive and Wildernest Road.
The agreement falls under the town’s Enhanced Sales Tax Incentive Program (ESTIP), through which private developers fund public improvements and are then repaid by the town through sales-tax reimbursements once the business is open.
Through the Lowe’s ESTIP agreement passed Wednesday, the company will fund improvements to the intersection at Stephens Way and Wildernest Road, as well as the intersection of Adams Avenue, Wildernest Road and Buffalo Mountain Drive. The town will reimburse $1.9 million in sales tax over a period of eight years.
The council’s vote on the agreement resulted in a three-three tie, with Councilmembers Darrick Wade, David Preaus and Dave Anderson voting against it. Mayor Dave Koop broke the tie, casting his vote in favor of the agreement.
According to town staff, the existing road system near the proposed development is substandard, with many traffic routes falling far short of ideal in terms of efficiency. The town intentionally put off improvements, waiting for future development to trigger such work.
The $1.9 million in the ESTIP agreement does not represent the total estimated project cost. Because Lowe’s will be responsible for about 20 percent of the traffic in the area, the company will only be reimbursed for 80 percent of the project cost.
“They’re paying their fair share,” town manager Kevin Batchelder said.
The decision on the ESTIP agreement came at about 2:30 a.m., after approval of Lowe’s final site plan, approval of two wetlands disturbance permits, presentations by Lowe’s representatives and two hours of public comment. The council voted 4-2 in favor of the site plan, with Preaus and Wade casting the two opposing votes.
Wade said he would have liked more time to study the potential long-term impacts of the proposed development, including impacts to housing, town-staff workload and local businesses. He also said he hoped the council could work with the town’s Economic Development Advisory Committee on finding ways to help existing small businesses weather the transition.
“Our community is something we really care about, and we need to make sure they’re included in what we’re doing,” Wade said.
The site-plan approval came with three conditions, including one that requires improved architectural design, especially on the proposed building’s roof.
Much of the public comment during Wednesday’s meeting centered on concerns over impacts to existing businesses and on potential traffic problems the store might create.
All six council members and the mayor participated in the handful of votes related to the Lowe’s development Tuesday night, despite controversy that erupted late last week over potential conflicts of interest.
At the beginning of the meeting, Anderson said he has a minority stake in Neils Lunceford Nursery, although he does not participate in day-to-day business operations. The business has the potential to feel competitive impacts from Lowe’s proposed garden center. Anderson said he would prefer to be excused from the Lowe’s votes, as he felt the controversy had tarnished any vote he might make. The remaining council members, however, voted to retain Anderson for the votes, feeling that he did not have a “substantial” financial interest in the outcome.
Preaus told the council he felt his co-ownership of Creative Cabinetry did not constitute a substantial financial or personal interest in any of the Lowe’s votes either, and the council concurred.
The Silverthorne Town Charter requires that if a council member discloses a potential conflict of interest, the remaining council members must decide whether he or she has a substantial interest in the matter at hand. Members are not permitted to recuse themselves.
In a meeting later this month, the council will likely vote on an easement agreement that would allow Lowe’s to install soil anchors under Buffalo Mountain Road, as part of a large retaining wall on the back of the property. The item was on Wednesday’s agenda, but at about 2 a.m., it was pushed to a later date due to the late hour.
Also taken off Wednesday’s agenda was a sign variance requested by Lowe’s. The town limits signs to 150 square feet, and does occasionally make exceptions. However, town staff recommended the council deny Lowe’s request to build a 757-square-foot sign.
During the next several months, Lowe’s will begin the construction-drawing process. The company hopes to break ground in spring of 2011 and open its doors in early 2012.
SDN reporter Julie Sutor can be reached at email@example.com.
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