Ken Johnson
Grand Junction Free Press Opinion Columnist

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March 14, 2013
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JOHNSON: Industry vs. Riverfront

Referendum A is a "Crazy Maker."

I mean, for goodness sake, is it really about Brady Trucking ruining our riverfront? Come on. That's just silly.

If the voters say "No," seems like we'll get to buy the Brady property after a nasty court fight over the value. So why don't we say "Yes" and get on with our lives.

Trying to downzone Brady's property so they can't use it doesn't feel right, regardless of the motive. Sorry, but it's time to do the right thing for everyone. The riverfront and the trail will not suffer, everyone will get along and, depending on what happens to Las Colonias Park and the grand plan for it, we'll surely have the option to buy the Brady land a few years from now.

This vote seems, to me, to be a test of our character. Are we cheap and mean-spirited? Or are we even-handed and fair?

Everyone knows the story by now: Six years ago Brady bought the old 12-acre rendering plant to add to its existing three-acre operation. It was zoned for heavy industry. No one seems to know if Brady was told the City might want to take away their right to actually use the 12 acres.

Anyway, the city and Brady agreed on two more compatible zones; light industry for a truck lot and industrial-office for a smaller portion. All is to be landscaped and its awful use (come on, sand storage?) nicely screened.

Brady is giving an easement, wide enough for a four-lane highway, that would be used for the Riverfront Trail.

Personally, I endorsed cleaning up both the Colorado and Gunnison riverbanks and creating a riverfront greenbelt long before it was popular; even before Bill Ela, Jim Robb, the Lions Club and a lot of folks actually got the Riverfront Trail established, which I continue to applaud and support. The riverfront is a wonderful addition to our quality of life in the valley.

If we really want to have the old rendering plant site as open space, let's buy it. Period.

Otherwise, forget the idea that this business will somehow ruin the to-be-built some day Las Colonias Park. That's just not true. It won't ruin the other acreage further east either.

If we don't want the business located there, surely we have an ironclad obligation be fair. There is ZERO fairness in even thinking we can just zone the land so it cannot be used for business, and then thumb our noses at the owner.

The City staff and the Council did the right thing when they worked out the present plan with Brady. This referendum feels like second guessing.

Want a much better answer? Use this argument to start, copying what that wretched place, Boulder, did. (Wretched because of attitudes, mostly!) You might recall that Boulder BOUGHT the lands surrounding the town for a huge greenbelt.

While the rest of the Denver/Boulder corridor has sprawled out to be almost as attractive as Los Angeles, Boulder seems like a beautiful oasis.

Grand Junction is going more and more toward the LA model. Just look around. Buying the lands around the town is both possible and, today, cheaper than it will ever be in the future. We need to be buying open space.

To this point, the Brady property solution is simple and economical: Money. Either buy the land OR work out a trade for other suitable land. (The only sticking point between the City and Brady seems to be getting Brady repaid the money they spent in cleaning up that toxic old polluted acreage, including any horse remains.)

Seems pretty easy. Do the right thing. Feel good about it. Then let everyone get on with their lives.

Settle this by saying "Yes" on Ref. A when you vote.

Ken is founder of the Grand Junction Free Press and former owner/publisher of The Daily Sentinel. He spends his time between the Grand Valley and California.

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The Post Independent Updated Mar 14, 2013 01:20PM Published Mar 14, 2013 01:19PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.