Smass wonders who will save its gas station?
November 20, 2006
The Snowmass Town Council is considering a public-private partnership to keep a gas station in town, and it appointed a negotiating team to hammer out the details.The team, which will report back to the council by Dec. 11, includes Snowmass Economic Director Jason Haber, current gas station owner Jeff Jandigan, developer Pat Smith and two community members.At issue is whether Snowmass Village needs a service station, and if so, where it should be located and how it should be paid for. During a lengthy meeting Monday night, the council moved away from discussing the relocation of the current station (at Snowmass Center), and instead focused on an entryway site and a deal with Smith, who is redeveloping Snowmass Center. As public comment and council discussion continued, the question became: Who will pay – Smith, the town or a combination the two?Council member Arnie Mordkin outlined some of the behind-the-scenes money talk to inform citizens about the amount of money involved. The current owners of the Snowmass Village Conoco have agreed to sell the business to Smith for $300,000; Smith would not make the owners pull out the tanks and buildings – an estimated cost of $500,000, according Mordkin. One lease possibility, he said, is to have a deferred rent structure whereby nothing would be paid for the entryway land and, at the end of 30 years, the town would own the gas station building. But, Mordkin said the owners can afford to pay only $40,000 per year toward financing the loan to build the structure; the cost, however, is closer to $90,000. Mordkin added Smith assured him and the current Conoco owners he would help with financing. But Smith pulled out of the deal and as a result the current owners did not submit a proposal to town council. “Financing from Pat Smith didn’t happen,” said Mordkin. “[The current owners] can’t go to the bank with that.”Carey Shanks, a representative of Smith, cautioned council about expecting too much financial support from Smith and stressed problematic council-mandated restraints on the station, such as a lack of a car wash and a 7-Eleven. Further complicating the issue is the entryway land value. The town’s financial advisory board suggested they determine the value of the town-owned property.The suggestion garnered heated criticism from outgoing Councilman Bill Boineau, who called it political and unwanted. Snowmass resident Harry Benton noted the land should not be appraised on a best-use basis but instead on the intended use. Further, it was unclear how far council members are willing to go to subsidize the station. “I am not in favor of trading our land or any town asset from public to private,” said Councilman Reed Lewis, who was sworn in Monday. “I didn’t get a handout from the town when I started my business.” Sally Sparhawk, on the other hand, supported subsidizing the station; other council members toyed with the idea of support through avenues such as low rent.Regardless, there was pressure for quick action; the lease on the current station expires in June.”We’ve got to pull this together,” said Mordkin, who spearheaded the charge by asking why the station was not included when town mandated a supermarket, post office and pharmacy in the Snowmass Center redevelopment.”So essential?” asked Mordkin. “We can condemn the land it’s on… we damn well ought to tell [Pat Smith’s group] they have to have a service station.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is email@example.comThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.