Grand Lake’s pending property purchase stirs debate
Trustees expected to vote on financing package Monday
Whether Grand Lake will follow through on buying 21 acres at Mad Moose and Foxy Lanes is a decision up to elected officials, expected to vote on a financing package Monday after hearing earfuls about the pending purchase this week.
Minutes before an online meeting began Tuesday, more than 80 computers, smart phones and other devices were signed on. By the time the meeting started, over 100 computers were plugged in.
Prior to the meeting, some neighbors of the 21-acre parcel, commonly known as the Stanley property, circulated a petition opposing the purchase. The petition attacked the process in which the town entered the contract to purchase the property, along with a number of discussed uses for it, such as putting a new maintenance building or trash facility on the site.
Trustees began the meeting with their own remarks. They hammered that nothing has been finalized, and any development of the property, if the town buys it, would have to go through public planning processes.
“I’ve heard a lot, I’ve read a lot about trash, dormitory-style housing, several other things, and I just want to say that nothing, nothing has been set in stone,” Trustee Ernie Bjorkman told the audience. “We threw out a bunch of ideas, and that’s what I think the opportunity is, is to buy this land, annex it into the town of Grand Lake. We’ll have it for the future, and we can work with the neighbors in (the Columbine Lake neighborhood) to see what they would like, what we would like.”
Trustees said they believe the town would be the best steward of the land, opposed to what might happen under a private developer. In favor of the purchase, Columbine Lake resident Jim McComb echoed those fears during his comments.
“Unlike many others, instead of reacting to the petition, I asked questions of the town board,” McComb said. “It turns out that many of the statements on the petition as to what was going to happen on the acquired property were outright lies and innuendos, I believe, created to stir up the community.”
Later, McComb said that during his conversations with town officials, he “discovered the reason for the purchase is actually to protect the property from what could be the development of up to 130 homes on 21 acres.”
Most public commenters avoided sharp attacks against individuals, instead focusing on the purchase and what it could mean for the town, though Grand County Assessor Tom Weydert at one point said the mayor and town manager had left trustees and the community “misinformed and ill advised.”
“Since I have been the mayor, I have taken great care to make sure everything I do and say is accurate to the best of my ability,” Kurdon said Thursday.
The first member of the public to speak Tuesday, Kathy Weydert went off on the pending purchase, saying that the decision to buy the land was made without transparency and would be “irresponsible at best” given the economic uncertainty surrounding COVID-19’s impacts on local businesses.
She had more to say, but Mayor Kudron muted her feed once Weydert eclipsed the allotted three minutes and a small grace period.
Many of the people who live next to the Stanley property and spoke out Tuesday were vehemently opposed as well. Overwhelmingly, neighbors pushed back against the idea of having a maintenance building or trash collection site on the property butting up against their land.
Some argued the town shouldn’t assume the debt, but many of the concerns focused on how development of the property could dampen their own property values and quality of life. One woman worried the town’s plans would drive off the wildlife she’s come to enjoy so much.
Previously, it’s been suggested the purchase could boost the town’s network of trails, but nearby homeowners contended that’s poppycock, saying any trail connections from the Stanley property would have to go through other residential areas before making necessary connections.
The town came into the meeting with the property under contract. The agreement would have Grand Lake buy the 21 acres for $1.2 million, along with $50,000 in corresponding water rights. To cover the purchase, Grand Lake is looking at borrowing $1.5 million through a certificate of participation.
As previously reported, Grand Lake would pay an estimated $120,000-$130,000 annually on the debt. However, those payments would be partially offset by another payment Grand Lake has been making on Thomasson Park because an option to buy the park has been costing the town $24,000 a year without paying down any of the principal.
With the park paid off as part of this purchase, the town would pay about $100,000 more annually on the debt than it is now. Additionally, there’s a home on the property that could be sold to recoup some of the cost.
In his remarks, Trustee Tom Bruton said the deal looked like a good investment, but going through with it now seemed like a bad decision given the public sentiment against it.
“I think people really do not want it, and I just, I guess that’s all I can say,” Burton said.
The town’s approval of the contract this fall was motioned by Trustee Cindy Southway, who watches the town’s finances closely in her role as financial trustee. On Tuesday, she explained why she originally supported the purchase, though she later said that she is reconsidering it.
“My support of the project was always contingent on the appraised value of the property,” Southway told residents. “I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the property purchase over the holidays and come tonight to listen to you with an open mind and common sense. And I know that all my fellow trustees will do the same.”
Trustees are expected to take up items related to the Stanley property purchase again on Monday. For more, go to the town’s website at http://www.TownOfGrandLake.com.
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