GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Registered voters living within Grand Junction city limits will have an opportunity to vote for four new Grand Junction City Council members, choosing from 10 candidates. Ballots will be mailed out March 11; Election Day is April 2.
The Free Press asked each of the candidates to respond to six questions on issues important to the community. Two candidates, Harry Butler and Robert Noble, preferred talking by phone or face to face. The other candidates responded by email. Some answers were edited slightly for brevity. Their responses will run over the next two weeks.
Here's what they had to say:
Bonnie Beckstein: The property of Colonias Park is a vision for the future. The city needs to find funding for the capital improvements of this park through outside sources, with monies from the city to be more in line with the budget that covers all parks. These funds are based on the needs of the parks.
Rick Brainard: While I support the development of the Las Colonias Park in the long run, I have concerns over the timing of the contribution. The city has to set priorities; and to give a sizable donation when they are already out of discretionary funds is, to me, just a bad idea. In the long run, I believe our riverfront should be developed - our very name, Grand Junction, says hey-we-have-two-of-the-most-important-rivers-in-the-west-merging-right-here-come-stroll-along-it. I am on board with the vision for a park that offers dining, shopping, recreation and entertainment - a riverfront destination.
Harry Butler: I think Las Colonias could have a mixture of businesses and a park to make it a viable place for people to visit.
Martin Chazen: The one-time site of uranium mill tailings is now known as Las Colonias Park. Although the area was cleaned up and then donated to the City over 15 years ago, the site still contains contaminated soil.
Before any city money is committed for park improvements, as a council member I would need to review a thorough and contemporary engineering report to determine if the site is safe for its intended use and hear community comments. Of particular interest would be the long-term impact to visitors and employees using the site, special handling requirements of soils disturbed by construction, and the types of improvements suitable for the site.
Tom Kenyon: I support the development of a plan that outlines what facilities could safely be constructed. If possible (that could include) a world-class amphitheater similar to the Gerald Ford site in Vail. We have long had discussions on a kayak course close to Watson Island if the project could be engineered and constructed for a reasonable cost. We are limited what we can construct by health-department regulation.
Laura Luke: The Grand Junction Lions Club has come forward to offer a sizable contribution toward the park as well.
(Las Colonias) could provide our citizens with an outdoor amphitheater, disc golf area, kayaking, etc., not to mention business opportunities for the park. I would like to see a facility built that offers visitors the chance to learn about the history of Grand Junction; possibly embrace the idea to partner and relocate the Museum of Western Colorado at or within close proximity to the park.
Visionaries like the owners of Kannah Creek Brewing Company may very well benefit by getting a jump start on expansion of their business at Las Colonias. With all that said, we must still be mindful that a sizable portion of the area is in the 100-year floodplain. It means we need to utilize those areas wisely and carefully assess the choices we make to avoid unnecessary complications going forward. There are also limitations with regard to uses tied to soil conditions. But rather than viewing that as a negative, we can choose to channel our vision to include creative features that are conducive to the uniqueness of the park.
Duncan McArthur: I have some reservations about the Las Colonias Park site. The property was deeded to Grand Junction under the terms of an agreement between the city, the state, and the Department of Energy, after the state determined that the property was not suitable for a state park. The property was a uranium mill tailings site that was cleaned up by DOE but there are remaining contamination issues, particularly with the groundwater. Before we start spending money on development of the park, we should resolve all contamination issues.
Bob Noble: The thing I'd most want to see in Las Colonias is a recreation center. The city had a small increase on sales tax to be directed to a recreation center but it never moved forward. We're the only city on the Western Slope that does not have a city recreation center. A recreation center would be a big step toward reaching that goal of making Grand Junction one of the most livable cities.
Phyllis Norris: I am concerned about the ground contamination from the uranium mill tailings that covered the Colonias Park area. Until I have seen the results of the ground testing, it is difficult to determine what would be the best use for the area.
Bill Pitts: Yes. Public input will dictate what goes there.
Beckstein: The Riverfront Trail is an intergovernmental vision and needs to be developed and supported by the public, city, county and businesses. We should again base financial support of this on a needs basis, not as a want.
Brainard: I believe the Riverfront Trail is good for our community and its vision should be continued. Once again, it should be put into a fiscal plan with funding sources identified.
Butler: Yes. When I was on City Council before (2001-2005), I'd visit various cities with really nice riverfront walkways where people bike, and there are amenities. Those things cause cities to prosper. People and businesses move in. It draws health-conscious people.
Chazen: The Riverfront Trail has been a long-term project and great example of how private landowners, businesses and government agencies can partner to create a truly unique amenity that has become part of our community. With only a few sections to complete, I believe the trail should be completed as landowners make their sections available for purchase or are willing to grant an easement.
Kenyon: I will always support the Riverfront Trail project and the community vision. I would like see a new connection from downtown to the Lunch Loop trailhead. Next we need more connections to parks and neighborhoods; we need some safe bikeways around North Avenue.
Luke: Yes, I do support continued development of the Riverfront Trail. Colorado residents report the best overall health second only to Hawaii. That, in part, is attributable to the outdoor opportunities we are blessed to have here in Grand Junction. Having the natural resources and to be able to develop our Riverfront Trail offers a positive outlet for outdoor enthusiasts and every day citizens who value its benefits. With the nation's obesity rates climbing, so too will health care costs. Encouraging healthful options in our community does translate to savings for our citizens, and a better quality of life.
McArthur: I do support the continuing development of the Riverfront Trail as we can afford to do so. I believe the best way to progress with trails is to seek grant money from Great Outdoors Colorado and other organizations. In the end, the Riverfront Trial will be an asset to the community.
Noble: Yes. I support it. The trail, once connected, will have a string of parks.
Along the Riverfront Trail there could be restaurants, an amphitheater for outdoor concerts, "things that create a unique atmosphere." The communities of Fruita, Grand Junction and Palisade will all benefit from the access along the river.
Norris: The Riverfront Trail has been in the development process for the last 35 years with plans to complete the trail from Palisade to Fruita in the next five years. I support the continued development of the trail and we should continue working with our partners to achieve the five-year goal. I feel the city should contribute financially to this goal. However, the financial contribution should be done within the city budget. Our city took $2 million out of reserved funds to balance the budget for 2013; reserve funds are for emergencies and should not be used to balance a budget. By completing projects over few years instead of all at once, we can have a balanced budget.
Pitts: Yes. Public input will dictate what goes there.
Beckstein: Brady Trucking should be allowed the zoning that they were originally allowed by the City Council. Brady Trucking bought and improved the land based on factual information provided by the city planning. The zoning request was within the definition at that time. Brady Trucking was and is more than willing to work with the city and Riverfront Trail to establish a buffer that would improve the area next to the trail.
Brainard: I believe the Brady Trucking issue has been greatly taken out of context. Everything Brady Trucking has done has been done properly and by the rules. In addition, Brady Trucking has demonstrated over and over that they are willing to do the right thing and are a good community partner. I also believe that Brady Trucking will do everything they have promised to make sure their co-existence with the Las Colonias Park is resolved in a manner with which everyone can live. Or, the city should look at its own inventory of properties and offer an equitable alternative to Brady. They're not the bad guys here.
Butler: That's up for a vote. I don't want to cause influence either way. I'll leave that up to the voters to decide.
Chazen: I encourage voters to support the Riverfront Trail and business development by voting Yes on Referred Measure A. By approving Ordinance 4295, Brady Trucking will accommodate the trail by granting a 50-foot easement (the width of a four-lane roadway) and construct a wall to separate the trail from business activities. This is a similar solution to where the trail abuts other commercial areas. A Yes vote also preserves the property rights of Brady Trucking, allowing them to move forward with business expansion and job creation.
Kenyon: City Council had a chance to acquire it before Brady acquired it. City Council made a business friendly decision to allow industrial zoning. Many in the community felt they should not have allowed the zoning. In a month the voters will decide. After the election I hope we can pursue a solution that supports both parties for the future. I support private property rights.
Luke: My opinion is that Brady took appropriate advantage of an opportunity to purchase land to expand their operation. The fact that zoning became an issue in this case is unfortunate. I wasn't on council at the time those planning considerations were being weighed, but I understand there were several missed opportunities by the city and other parties who, for whatever reason, did not purchase those parcels prior to Brady. Hindsight being 20/20, we need to be asking ourselves, what can we do to create a win-win now, and what can we learn from this going forward?
Thankfully, Brady has been a darned good employer and business entity in our community. They've worked well with city planners to create buffers, and their investment so far speaks to an effort of clean up, rather than mess up. I'm not sure what the community's position was when the rendering plant went in (that Brady paid to have cleaned up), but clearly there's a shift in cognizant awareness for advocates on both sides to find harmonious high ground. I voted in favor of sending this issue to the ballot because our process allows for that option.
McArthur: Actually, Brady Trucking is not expanding on the Riverfront Trail. They are actually proposing to provide land for the continuation of the trail past their property, including providing the improvements on that land.
I support Brady being allowed to go forward. The deciding factor for me is that this property was offered to both the Riverfront Commission and the City of Grand Junction before Brady even considered buying the property. After Brady purchased the property and started clean up of the property by investing thousands of dollars to remove the abandoned rendering plant that was located there, then others decided the property was desirable for extension of Las Colonias Park. Too late. It is fair and right that Brady be allowed to go forward with the expansion of their business.
Noble: If Brady is allowed to expand, environmentalists will say the city is reneging on its promise to keep the riverfront as pristine as possible. On the other hand, Brady has invested in the property and has cleaned up the area and has offered to sell the property. The city has not come with a counter-offer. It appears to me that's a lost opportunity. Now it goes before the public. If they vote against it, I'm not sure what happens next. It could drag on.
Norris: When I toured the Brady property and saw what they were doing to contribute to the goal of finishing the trail from Palisade to Fruita, I felt our community should tell them "Thank You!" for helping us complete our five-year project. The planned development provides the Riverfront Trail and the jobs Brady will bring to our community. When we have more jobs, we will have more tax dollars to contribute to the important projects we need.
Bill Pitts: This is a ballot issue. The public will weigh in as it is a ballot issue.