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Businesses eye school district’s land

Dennis Webb

A landlord for businesses that will be dislocated by expansion of Glenwood Springs High School says school district property elsewhere in town would make a good home for his tenants.But Roaring Fork Re-1 School District officials are reacting coolly to the idea of letting go of the land.Terry Fattor, who owns a commercial building with four tenants near the high school, said he would be interested in building a new home for them on district land on 27th Street, between the district’s bus barn and career center.”I think that would work very well, but I don’t think the school district’s going to give it up,” Fattor said Monday. “I think it would be a very, very good solution to this, in my opinion.”One of Fattor’s tenants, Rob Jones, owner of Glenwood Gymnastics Academy, first proposed the idea. Last week, Jones’ girlfriend, Elizabeth Frye, wrote an e-mail to representatives with the school district, city of Glenwood Springs, Garfield County and local media, pushing the concept.”If Re-1 would give this parcel to Terry Fattor … pay him fair market value for his property, and pay off the business leases, Mr. Fattor could use this land to rebuild and all the businesses would survive in Glenwood,” she wrote.She said Monday she has been promoting the idea on fliers for parents of gym students.”People have been very, very excited to see that there is some kind of option out there, something to support,” she said.Some of them are calling the school district in support of the idea, she said.But school board member Michael Bair opposed it in an e-mailed response to Frye, writing, “I don’t believe the board or district office can or should give away public assets.”Re-1 superintendent Fred Wall was reluctant to discuss the concept in detail Monday because the district has begun negotiations with Fattor over his property. Fattor has indicated he may force the district to go through eminent domain to acquire the land.Wall said it is “very premature” to talk about the possibility of giving Fattor the 27th Street land, and the district hasn’t weighed the pros and cons. He also raised several concerns about the idea.Although the land has no building on it, it isn’t vacant, Wall said.”We store equipment there and so forth,” he said.He also said if a private building is erected on the site, it could create logistical difficulties for the district because it sits between the bus barn and career center. He said he doesn’t know if the idea would present legal difficulties.”I think it’s an issue of what is the most appropriate use of school facilities,” he said.The school district generally does not get rid of property because it may need it later, Wall said.Besides the gymnastics academy, Fattor’s tenants include the Defiance Thrift Store; Valley Refrigeration, which has a warehouse and small office; and Italian Ice, which rents storage space.Sally Lippman, a thrift store board member, expressed interest Monday in the 27th Street site.”We’re open to everything at this point,” she said.Fattor didn’t know the size of the property, but said it would be big enough to house all his tenants.He said it wouldn’t be big enough to house True Value, which also will lose its home but leases from a separate landlord.The school district has hired Denver mediator Kathy Tully to negotiate with property owners on the six acres the district plans to acquire to expand Glenwood Springs High School. In November, voters approved an $86 million bond issue to pay for that project and others across the district.Frye said her three children have attended the gymnastics academy for six years.”It’s like a second home to a lot of students so there’s a lot of panicky parents that want to know where this is going to go,” she said.She said the district hopes to buy out Fattor’s property peacefully “and just make the tenants go away. That’s their ideal, but you know these businesses don’t want to go.”Fattor said his understanding is that the district board won’t support giving up the 27th Street property. But he said it’s a good option that could keep the district from having to go through eminent domain.”If they came up with an alternative to what we have now, bingo, I think we’re there,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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