City urges against proposed airport-area FedEx center
Ryan Summerlin August 31, 2014
The prospect of an additional 250 vehicle trips per day, including some by double semi-trailer rigs, along what’s largely considered to be Glenwood Springs’ most needy transportation corridor looms as a big concern surrounding a proposed FedEx center next to the municipal airport.
Garfield County commissioners next month will consider plans for a 27,000-square-foot Federal Express sorting and distribution operation to be located on roughly nine acres southeast of the airport, in an area that remains outside Glenwood city limits.
FedEx had applied earlier this year for city annexation of the property owned by CLH Properties LLC. It pulled that proposal in favor of proceeding with the county after city staff raised concerns.
The site could still be eligible for annexation to the city in the future, according to a cover letter accompanying the county application from project representative Davis Farrar of Carbondale-based Western Slope Consulting.
But the decision was made to go through the county limited-impact review “due to issues of timing and uncertainty with the city annexation process.”
The company would also like to begin construction on the new distribution center before the end of this year, Farrar wrote.
The proposed facility would not utilize the airport itself, which is limited to small aircraft only, but would involve numerous large and small ground delivery trucks in and out every day. It would not serve walk-in customers seeking to ship packages.
The distribution center would replace an existing one in Carbondale, Farrar told the Post Independent.
“We believe this will be a good addition to the Glenwood Springs area and a desired activity that will bring some jobs,” Farrar said of the 14-plus jobs that would be transferred from Carbondale to Glenwood.
Farrar indicated that FedEx had looked at other sites in the area, and determined that the south Glenwood site is “strategically located” to serves its needs.
Glenwood Springs City Council, on a 5-1 vote last week urging the county to deny the request, begged to differ, noting the site’s remote location at the far end of what’s now a dead-end transportation corridor that is in need of significant upgrades.
“The projected impacts of the facility at build-out … would be too much of a strain on the already-dilapidated South Midland corridor and the 27th Street bridge,” Mayor Leo McKinney said of the council vote. “It would be an inappropriate and negative impact on the residents who live there.”
McKinney added that he and other council members are also concerned about the implications of endorsing one type of heavy truck traffic along the South Midland and adjacent Four Mile corridor while attempting to prevent oil and gas industry traffic from using that route to access leases in the Thompson Divide area south of Glenwood Springs.
Councilman Todd Leahy cast the lone dissenting vote, suggesting the county could work with FedEx to help take care of some of the city’s infrastructure needs in that area.
A list of concerns outlined by city planning staff did note that such a facility might make sense if the proposed South Bridge connection to Highway 82 were to be built.
With no immediate plans and no money to construct the estimated $35 million route, though, such a proposal would be premature, city officials contend.
Part of the proposed FedEx facility site may also be needed to accommodate the west landing point for the new bridge across the Roaring Fork River, should the South Bridge project go forward.
And, in addition to the work needed to bring Midland and the 27th Street bridge up to standards, Airport Road is in need of repairs as well, Andrew McGregor, the city’s community development director, noted in his staff report to City Council.
Should the proponents return to the city with an annexation request, the city could also negotiate for “reasonable exactions” to help pay for some of the needed off-site infrastructure improvements, McGregor said.
Farrar said FedEx is willing to pay its “proportionate share” of any street or transportation corridor improvements in the area, and will explain that to the county commissioners.
But, at what’s estimated to be less than 250 additional vehicle trips per day, “in the world of traffic, that’s relatively nothing,” he said.
“The city has suggested some numbers in the seven-figure range,” Farrar said. “For the level of impact we would be adding, that’s not even in the ball park.”
Farrar added that the company may also be will to consider a land dedication to accommodate the South Bridge project. Without details, including an engineered route, that conversation is premature, he said.
A new bridge to Highway 82 would benefit access to the FedEx site, Farrar also acknowledged in the cover letter to the county, “but it is not critical to the functionality of the operation.”
The proposal is scheduled to be heard by the Garfield County commissioners at 1 p.m. during their regular Sept. 8 meeting, which will be held at Carbondale Town Hall.