Martin says county’s FedEx decision well-grounded
Garfield County Commissioner John Martin says he stands behind the county commission’s recent decision to approve a new FedEx distribution center just outside Glenwood Springs city limits next to the municipal airport over the city’s objections.
City Council members have expressed outrage about the approval, even suggesting the city should consider suing the county.
But Martin said, “If you look at the zoning mix out there, the city’s zoning is industrial and the county’s is commercial. I felt like we followed our rules and regulations and the city and county comprehensive plans, and that we respected the urban growth boundaries of the city.”
The suggestion that FedEx pay the city $585,000 for improvements on Airport Road to accommodate delivery trucks and other traffic in and out of the facility, which the company agreed to do, came from city estimates, not the county, Martin said.
Company representatives are back before the county commissioners on Nov. 3 with a request to do away with two of the county’s conditions of approval, one that it negotiate an agreement with the city for the road work and another to dedicate a piece of land to accommodate the future South Bridge Project should it ever be built.
Instead, after City Council voted 4-3 earlier this month to reject the agreement, FedEx has offered to give the road improvement funds to the county and to work with the county on any future land needs for the bridge project.
“I know it’s frustrating, but we are willing to work with the city and see what can be rectified out of this,” Martin said. “But I feel like we did our due diligence” in approving the project.
Martin was reacting to a heated City Council discussion Oct. 16 in which the seven council members were critical of the county’s 2-1 decision Sept. 8 to approve the 27,000-square-foot warehouse and ground distribution center, calling on the county commissioners to reverse the decision.
Some council members even suggested possible legal action to try to halt the development over concerns it would accelerate the already-problematic deterioration of the only route leading to the site along south Midland Avenue.
Martin and fellow Commissioner Mike Samson voted to approve FedEx’s plans to relocate the facility from Carbondale to the Glenwood Springs site. Both said they didn’t want to risk running the packaging company, and its associated 14 or so jobs, out of the county.
The new facility is intended to replace one in the Carbondale Industrial Park east of Eighth Street that serves as FedEx’s regional distribution center for the Roaring Fork Valley. The company says it has outgrown that location.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky was the lone member of the county board who voted against the plans.
In doing so, he cited the city’s concerns over traffic impacts on the 27th Street Bridge, Midland Avenue and Airport Road. Traffic has become a major point of contention with any new development proposed in the south Glenwood area or up the Four Mile Road corridor, including the recent 400-home Glenwood Ridge annexation and development proposal that was withdrawn over those very concerns.
Glenwood Springs Mayor Leo McKinney said Monday that his vote to decline the money from FedEx, joining council members Stephen Bershenyi, Matt Steckler and Dave Sturges, “was easily the hardest vote I’ve had to cast.”
“I didn’t disagree with the three council members who voted to take the money,” McKinney said of council members Mike Gamba, Ted Edmonds and Todd Leahy. Those three objected to the county’s approval of the project, but argued that at least some money for road improvements was better than none.
“It just came down to the idea that all seven of us were wholeheartedly opposed to that project, and then to turn around and take the money just didn’t feel right,” McKinney said.
He said it’s a decision that was supported by his constituents in the south Glenwood neighborhoods that he represents on City Council, and which stand to be the most impacted by any traffic increases along Midland Avenue.
“This is a piece of land that, even though it’s in an unincorporated area, for all intents and purposes it is part of the city,” McKinney said of the city’s initial recommendation that the county deny the project. “To be flat-out ignored by the county commissioners, it’s just really frustrating.”
Martin added in his response to the city’s concerns that the FedEx plans conformed to the relatively recent comprehensive plans that were adopted by both the city and the county.
Had compliance with the county comprehensive plan been mandatory, rather than advisory as the county commissioners have determined, Martin said the type of use planned by FedEx likely would have been considered a use by right.
Martin also noted that the city has approved other development in the area in recent years, including the 55-home Silver Sage subdivision, without asking for traffic mitigation funds.
“What we can do here is get almost $600,000 … and be able to do a real nice road there,” he said.
McKinney countered that the suggested amount will only pay for a 2-inch asphalt overlay on Airport Road, and won’t cover future maintenance or deal with the larger issue of upgrading Midland Avenue and the 27th Street Bridge.
“I’ve tried to be as consistent as possible in not supporting development along that corridor until we have these pieces in place,” McKinney said, noting he voted against the Silver Sage development.
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Policy that dictates what for-profit activities should be officially sanctioned within Glenwood Springs parks is being reviewed by city staff and will likely come before the city council for final approval later this summer.