City, FedEx given another month to work it out
City of Glenwood Springs and FedEx officials will be given until Dec. 15 to reach a new deal to pay for road impacts or find other solutions associated with the company’s planned new package distribution facility in south Glenwood.
Garfield County commissioners had been expected to make a final decision Monday whether to amend their development agreement with FedEx. That plan requires the company to pay the city $585,000 to pave the portion of Airport Road leading to the controversial site, which lies just outside city limits.
Instead, the commissioners unanimously agreed to continue the matter for another four weeks to allow the city and representatives working on behalf of FedEx to negotiate an acceptable agreement or, for FedEx’s part, possibly locate another site.
“I think some progress has been made,” Commissioner Mike Samson said of preliminary discussions that have already taken place between the two parties. “I have no problem giving you a further extension to talk about things … and hopefully both sides can give a little.”
Samson also said he’s not buying into FedEx’s stated urgency to finalize the deal so it can close on the property.
“I don’t think anybody is in a big hurry to secure that land for anything else,” he said of the 9-acre parcel southeast of the city airport.
But the decision does put in jeopardy a contract deadline to buy the property, said local land-use attorney David McConaughy, who works on behalf of FedEx’s real estate locator and land developer, Kevin Kiernan.
“We will have to go back and talk to the landowner and continue to talk to the city and determine where we want to go with this,” McConaughy said after the commissioners’ decision.
The decision came after City Council met in a special session earlier in the day and requested the commissioners either grant another continuance or up the contribution for road improvements along the South Midland corridor to $1.68 million.
That’s the amount Glenwood City Councilman Mike Gamba arrived at, going off of FedEx’s own estimate that it would increase the current traffic volume in the area by about 2.85 percent.
Adding up the estimated $59 million in long-term road upgrades that have been identified in that part of town — rebuilding South Midland, replacing or expanding the 27th Street bridge, and the big-ticket South Bridge project, at $41 million by itself — the $1.68 million figure is what Gamba figures FedEx’s share would be to help improve access to the area.
Kiernan, speaking at the commissioners meeting, said FedEx is open to negotiating with the city to reach an agreement, but that particular figure may be too high.
“FedEx is not interested in a free ride, and is willing to help make this work,” he said. “But there are financial constraints.”
A newer concern that the city would like to research further was expressed by a resident living near the airport who also is a pilot.
John Schneider said he checked with FAA officials and the distance between the south end of the runway and Airport Road is less than acceptable safety standards.
FAA does not have authority over the small city airport, Schneider acknowledged. But the potential for collisions between FedEx vehicles and airplanes should be taken into consideration.
He suggested installing a pilot-controlled gate on either side of the runway to halt vehicle traffic whenever a plane is landing or taking off.
The city has objected to the planned new FedEx distribution facility mainly because of the increased traffic from 230 new vehicle trips per day, and the needed road improvements along the South Midland corridor, where about a quarter of the city’s population resides.
County commissioners granted the development approval in September against the city’s recommendation, after FedEx decided not to pursue annexation into the city.
City Council members and others who spoke at the Monday meetings took the opportunity to encourage FedEx to abandon the troubled airport site and continue looking for other sites.
“I do not believe there are no other alternatives out there, it’s just about their bottom line,” said Mogli Cooper, a local real estate broker. “It may cost a little more, but there are other locations available.”
The planned new 27,000-square-foot distribution facility would replace FedEx’s current package sorting and distribution center in Carbondale. The company’s landlord there, John Foulkrod, said he could accommodate that size of a building at his 12.5-acre industrial park off Carbondale’s Eighth Street.
“We are still hoping they will stay in Carbondale,” Foulkrod said. “I’ve heard them say there is no other place to do this, and I don’t think that’s true.”
Kiernan said an extensive search of available properties in the area didn’t turn up a lot of appropriately zoned parcels outside of residential areas that would work. The airport-area site ended up be the best option, he said.
City Councilman Stephen Bershenyi opposed asking for more money to take care of road impacts, calling it a “bad development in the wrong place.”
“I remain unalterably opposed to this entire concept,” Bershenyi said. “No amount of money is going to change the fact that this is just a really bad idea.”
Glenwood Springs Mayor Leo McKinney said after the commissioners’ decision that he’s hopeful the extra time will lead to an “amicable solution.”
“I am pleased to hear they are willing to listen to our concerns, and for the first time are really taking our concerns to heart,” McKinney said.
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