Re-1, True Value tenants headed toward court date
Roaring Fork school district officials are stepping up their efforts to force the owners of the Glenwood Springs True Value Hardware store to make way for the wrecking ball. Attorneys for Roaring Fork School District Re-1 filed a motion Oct. 27 in 9th Judicial District Court to seize the land where the True Value Hardware store sits, citing an impasse in negotiations with the landowners to acquire the property for the Glenwood Springs High School expansion. The same day, court papers were filed informing tenants that Re-1 plans to seize the property they rent.By filing the motion, school district officials are forcing nine parties into court on an unspecified date in order for a judge to consider granting Re-1 the right to take possession of the land by Jan. 1, the date construction on the high school expansion is slated to begin. Re-1 Superintendent Fred Wall said in an e-mail that all buildings on the condemned property will be razed soon after Jan. 1. Though Denny Swanson of Steamboat Springs owns the True Value store, he is a tenant of a tenant and does not own the building, originally a Safeway grocery store. Safeway leases the property from the George W. and Loretto Sumers family, and True Value subleases the building from Safeway, which has signed over its interest in the property to Nevada-based Sunwest Inc., according to the motion.Re-1 is asking each party to outline its interest in the True Value property, and for a judge to grant Re-1 immediate possession of the property and determine how much to compensate each landowner for the seizure.However, school officials deny that they were unable to reach an agreement with the property owners. “Negotiations are continuing, and there is no impasse,” Wall said Tuesday. School board President Susan Hakanson said the motion “wasn’t anything unexpected for anybody.”Re-1 is “within inches” of a settlement with the landowners, said school board member Bruce Wampler. Re-1 officials said they can’t wait for the landowners to delay any further or to seek a second appraisal of the property because the district must follow its construction schedule for the high school.”Time has run out on some of these things,” Wampler said. “While we still have a possibility of closing without going through court proceedings, time’s done, and we have to take possession of the property.”He said if the landowners are allowed to postpone the start of construction, it could jeopardize the entire project, costing the district “thousands.” The school is slated to be completed by December 2007.William Schell, an attorney representing the Sumers family and Bar-Seven, said Re-1 negotiators informed him about the date Re-1 wants to take possession of the property but he has received no official correspondence from the district stating that.Swanson said he hasn’t heard that True Value has to be out of its building by then, either. “We really haven’t had any response from the school district,” he said Monday. Hakanson said the district talks primarily with landowners, and Re-1 has no control over how landowners pass information to tenants. What’s more, she said, True Value’s status as a sub-lessee complicates matters. “I feel for them, I really do,” Hakanson said of Swanson and Rob Jones, owner of Glenwood Gymnastics Academy, which would also be affected. But, she said, “Unfortunately, one of these properties could have been sold to any owner at any moment in time. There’s never a guarantee as a renter that your rental property will always be available. It’s part of doing business.”Condemned buildingsWith their buildings condemned, Swanson and Jones haven’t found other places to move their businesses, and as Jan. 1 approaches, their futures become more uncertain. “We feel we’re being forced out of business because there is no place to go,” Swanson said, adding that the committee the school district assigned to help the pair find new locations hasn’t helped them much. No alternative the committee could find was adequate for a hardware store, he said. Jones also said he has yet to find another adequate location for the gymnastics academy. Wall said True Value’s business model required a location in a residential area near a grocery store. “A potential site in Rifle meeting those criteria was discussed, but the owner was not interested in relocating to Rifle,” Wall said. Swanson said he has heard nothing from the committee since his meeting with three of its members earlier this year. Swanson said he has no plans to close True Value – at least not until he’s officially told to do so. He said he expects the store to remain open even after the first of the year. Even if there were places for Swanson and Jones to move their businesses, they say Re-1 won’t pony up enough cash to help them get there. The school board decided Oct. 12 that Re-1 will pay both Jones and Swanson $1 per square foot to help them relocate.That means Glenwood Gymnastics Academy will receive $8,850 in moving assistance, while moving company estimates show that Jones’ actual moving costs will exceed $34,400. Jones called the district’s offer “ludicrous.” Swanson is slated to receive $26,427 from the district to relocate True Value, though his moving costs could top $700,000. While Jones’ moving cost figures are based on moving-company estimates, Swanson said he calculated the cost of moving True Value based on how much it cost him to move a similar True Value store in Steamboat Springs a year ago.Hakanson said the district is helping tenants with relocation even though she said it doesn’t have to. But payments have to fit within the strict confines of Re-1’s budget for the high school expansion project, which voters approved a year ago, she said.Jones will be forced to remove his expensive wooden gymnastics floor and disassemble his gym equipment – a very complex and costly process, he said. “It takes a month to move a place like this,” Jones said. “They haven’t done anything for me. They’ve just made it hard.”
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