Grand Lake OKs financing package for Stanley property purchase
Grand Lake trustees split 4-3 Monday as they decided to push forward with a controversial land deal.
Grand Lake’s effort to buy 21 acres at Mad Moose and Foxy Lanes known as the Stanley property could set the town up well for years to come by banking a large tract of land with mountains of potential.
If the majority of trustees is wrong though, the town might be moving forward with a $1.25 million purchase for a piece of land that neighbors don’t want developed and Grand Lake can’t afford to leave bare.
The town board unanimously approved entering a contract to buy the property in September, but recent hostility from some neighbors and town residents led more than one trustee to waiver as the pending purchase hit a critical pass this week.
On the agenda, the financing package behind the deal was up for town approval. It would have Grand Lake borrow $1.5 million through a certificate of participation with the town using $1.25 million to take control of the Stanley property and $50,000 worth of corresponding water rights. The rest of the money would go to pay off another town-owned property, Thomasson Park.
Prior to the vote, town staff said that failing to pass the financial package would leave Grand Lake unable to raise the necessary money to fulfill the purchase, essentially killing the deal.
Trustee Cindy Southway, who voted against financial package approval Monday, contended that Grand Lake should reverse course, and the town could even try to find a partner to chip in and shoulder some of the costs, which she saw as too high given residents’ wishes for the land.
There are a number of groups out there that could help with such a purchase, Southway continued, but those groups can only help buy land and she would rather not see the town go through with it alone.
“For me, it feels like we’re in a similar situation to last summer, when our community told us we were picking the wrong site for Space to Create,” Southway said. “We listened to them, went back to the drawing board and came up with a better location. I think we need to find a good location for the town shop and pay as you throw, but I don’t think the Stanley property is it.”
As the financial trustee, Southway noted that Grand Lake has trouble finding the money to take care of the parks, downtown district and the land that Grand Lake already owns, and she said taxpayers can’t afford to buy the Stanley property to leave it open space or make it another town park.
“If the community wants the Stanley property to be conserved for wildlife and recreation, I totally would support that, but we would need to find partners to support the project,” Southway said. “Grand Lake can’t buy it for them.”
Trustees Jonah Landy and Tom Bruton joined Southway in the opposition, saying they had heard from residents and also didn’t think the town should go through the purchase at this time.
On the other side, trustees in favor argued that the town would be the best steward of the land and any development of the property would be done harmoniously with the town and residents in mind. More than one trustee said they don’t believe Grand Lake will get another land banking opportunity like this again.
“I have had many of our constituents tell me they agree with the purchase and hope it’s approved,” Trustee Ernie Bjorkman said, explaining that he was representing the “silent supporters” in town who backed the purchase with his vote.
He wasn’t alone, either.
“I believe that the purchase of the property is in the best interest in the town in the long run just mainly due to the fact of our extremely limited land opportunities up here,” Trustee Michael Arnston added.
The deal is boosted by negating an option to buy Thomasson Park, which has been costing the town about $24,000 a year without paying down any of the principal on the park itself. Additionally, there’s a home on the Stanley property trustees believe can “easily” be sold for $400,000 to $500,000 to recoup some of the cost.
Town leaders held a community forum Jan. 19 after residents began to circulate a petition against the purchase, and the forum elicited a large turnout. A number of people spoke out for and against the project during the forum with some of the stiffest opposition coming from immediate neighbors.
However, some of the strongest advocates were also people who live near the property.
“I am honestly, honestly thinking it’s good for the town’s future, it’s better that the town has control over the property than somebody else (and) the town will take Columbine Lakers into consideration,” Trustee Fawn Calvin-Braley said. “I have faith in the board here and a lot of the people that I talked to that this is the right move.”
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