Winter Park rejects Kum & Go
Holding hope that something better may someday come along, the Town of Winter Park denied Kum & Go’s application Tuesday, Dec. 15, for a gas station and convenience store at the site of the once-beloved “Shed.”Proposing a project unlike anything it has ever built, Kum & Go had laid out plans for a multi-use building with a mix of residential and commercial units, including a 4,500 square foot grocery market.Despite Kum & Go reducing the number of proposed pumping stations from 16 to 12, scaling down the cedar shingle and stone pillar canopy to 15 feet and offering to bury all the utility lines and build sidewalks around the property, the majority of Town Council decided that the site was ultimately the wrong location for a gas station.Acknowledging that Kum & Go made more concessions and offered more incentives for the project than any other commercial developer in the history of Winter Park, council determined that the property, which contains a portion of Vasquez Creek, is critical to the redevelopment of Main Street. Further, council members agreed that Kum & Go’s project, though innovative for that company, was not “special enough” to warrant the exception, according to council member Jimmy Lahrman; and it would neither drive further tourism nor be conducive to the pedestrian environment that Winter Park seeks for that section of town in the future, said member Katie Riemenschneider.Kum & Go has been the only serious prospective buyer for the property in the two years since Winter Park Square went into foreclosure. Walking away from $45,000 in potential annual sales tax revenue, Mayor Pro-Tem Rusty Thompson said the money Kum & Go would bring to town would be just a drop in the bucket compared to the Winter Park’s overall sales tax revenue.”Focusing on the sales tax is short-sighted,” he said, adding that the financial benefit would not make up for the detriment to property values or future growth in that area.Citing Steamboat Springs and Breckenridge as ideal examples, council members said they would like to see a long row of pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development bordering the three blocks of Main Street between Vasquez Road to Millers Drive with buildings situated close to the road with parking and pavement in the rear. Mayor Jim Myers, who was the only council member to cast a dissenting vote, noted that there used to be five gas stations in town. “But, people have short term memory,” he said. He added that this was a viable company wanting to bring money into the community in tough times and added that Kum & Go had bent over backwards to make the project mesh with the town’s master plan. Planning commission member and Winter Park business owner Dick Norman said that in his 15 years of reviewing special use requests he’s never seen developer do so much to meet the towns request and desires. “This parcel has sat undeveloped for more than two decades, despite great plans,” he said. “What is the right development for this site? We don’t know. It could sit empty for another 15 years.”Steward Mosko, a real estate agent who has listed the property, said that in his decade serving on Denver’s Planning Commission he’s never seen a developer make proffers like these without asking for something from the town in return. Despite Kum & Go’s concessions, council’s one remaining major concern about the project was the large concrete gap between the north and south parcels created by the gas pumps and the main entrance to the property.Council members said they felt the traffic through this expanse and the break in the flow of buildings would detract from the pedestrian-friendly feel of the Main Street they envision for the future. Developer Clark Lipscomb, who owns a gas station and grocery market outside of town, stated his opposition to the project.”To get something going just to get it going, is not a good idea,” Lispcomb said, adding that the town has put a lot of money into Hideaway Park across the street and would be “trading short-term gain for long-term impacts,” if it approved the project. “I would argue that this piece of property is a key redevelopment parcel in the downtown area,” he said, arguing that the shotgun development approach at Cooper Creek Square, touted by planner Jim Shockey during his comments to council, “is not the way to bring down the scale of Main Street and make it more pedestrian friendly.”Winter Park resident Lori Myers expressed her hope that the property would someday become “the centerpiece of the community, and said she envisions the property someday being home to a convention center.”Unless the town purchases the property, it may have little say in what ultimately is built on that site.”We may not have control over it,” Norman said. “It could sit empty for another 15 years. Would Kum & Go bring in more tourists? No. But, neither would a real estate office.”- Reid Armstrong can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610 or email@example.com.
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