Community forum regarding Grand Lake’s purchase of 21 acres set for Tuesday
The Grand Lake Board of Trustees paused what seemed liked a routine vote regarding the town’s plan to buy 21 acres of land after getting some pushback in the community.
The parcel sits west of town along Mad Moose Lane and is commonly known as the Stanley Property. Items related to the purchase were listed on Monday’s agenda, but all discussions were postponed with trustees pointing to a new virtual community forum set for Tuesday night. More details will be posted on at http://www.TownOfGrandLake.com, under “agendas.”
The town is currently under contract to buy the 21 acre parcel, and trustees could revisit voting on the ordinance covering the proposed site lease, lease purchase agreement and related documents as soon as their next regular board meeting on Jan. 25.
When trustees voted in favor of pursuing a contract with the property owner in September, the effort was hailed as a pivotal moment in Grand Lake’s future, and discussions quickly turned to what the town might do with the land, which would be secured though a deal that would also produce financing to pay off the balance owed on Thomasson Park.
However, the potential purchase has stirred concerns among some of the neighbors, including Mike and Janice Pryor, who live next to the Stanley property, along with other town residents.
In the letter crafted by their attorney and signed by Tom and Kathy Weydert, the Pryors question a number of aspects surrounding the proposed purchase. Mike Pryor said they’ve also been circulating a petition, which has over 300 signatures on it.
Overall, the letter suggests the $1.25 million price tag is a lot for such a small town to shoulder, and the Pryors argue the decision hasn’t been properly vetted in public forums outside of executive sessions. The letter also takes issue with the process, contending that trustees didn’t properly adhere to open meetings law by failing to describe which parcel they were going in executive session to discuss when they did so.
While the letter attacks the process, it’s not out of the ordinary for land purchases to be handled in closed-door discussions because publicity of those negotiations can affect things like the price or availability of a property before a deal has been finalized.
The Pryors also are not happy with discussions about proposed uses for the property. Nothing has been decided, but there has been talk of a maintenance facility, dorm style housing, a new fire station or even a transit hub, just to name a few ideas that have been floated.
The letter worries about the town being on the hook for costly fixes related to ongoing problems with the property, and the letter’s authors don’t like the idea of the Grand Lake Center as collateral to secure financing.
In response to some of the complaints, Grand Lake Mayor Steve Kudron authored a three-page “fact sheet” defending the town’s plan to buy the land and the timeline for how elected officials came to the decision in September.
“What we did was purchase that land to ensure our stewardship of community and ensure the best interest of the Town of Grand Lake and the community,” Kudron explained.
For Kudron, the purchase represents many opportunities, including the potential for added trail connectivity. There is also a house on the land the town plans to sell to help offset the cost of the purchase, while paying off Thomasson Park. The park was acquired by the town nearly 15 years ago under a lease-purchase agreement that’s been renewed multiple times and has cost the town more than $250,000, according to the mayor.
“These funds have been paid to lease the land without any principal paid, more than the term negotiated,” Kudron continued. “In searching for a resolution to this costly agreement, we directed staff to investigate a solution coupled with the Stanley purchase.”
In other business:
• The Grand Lake Business Relief fund was created to help businesses in town continue to operate after COVID-19 and the East Troublesome Fire devastated many of their sales last year.
During the meeting, trustees noted that more than $100,000 has gone out to small businesses in monthly payments of $1,000 and up. The payments will continue for six months for qualifying businesses.
To qualify, new businesses must have had one month with at least $1,000 in sales while large businesses needed at least three months with $10,000 in sales. The businesses also had to commit to being open at least 20 hours a week while receiving relief.
• Responding to complaints about the $500 short-term rentals inspection fee, trustees explained the town does not set the fee charged by Grand Lake Fire, which performs the inspections and decides the price. Trustees said they would have town officials discuss the inspection fee with department leaders and forward the department letters the town has received.
• In a Space to Create update, trustees noted that the site — a series of adjacent lots along Park Avenue, between Pitkin and Hancock streets — is still under consideration with feasibility and impact studies underway. Trustees said they expect more details to come out when ArtSpace is able to join them in one of the trustees’ next two meetings.
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