FedEx foiled again

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— A tie vote was definitely not a win for representatives of Federal Express Thursday night.

With two members absent, Steamboat Springs Planning Commission split right down the middle on a FedEx plan to build a new facility in the Copper Ridge Business Park on Elk River Road. The 4-4 vote amounts to a technical denial and means the company will go back to City Council sometime next month to appeal Planning Commission's vote.

Thursday's vote marked the second time this spring that Planning Commission has voted to recommend denial of the 17,000-square-foot building. Planning Commission originally voted 7-2 to recommend denial of the project on March 23.

This time around, commissioners Ken Miller and Dan Baker were not present at the meeting. Even with alternate Dick Curtis participating as a voting member, the commission was left with eight members, setting up the potential of a tie vote.

Federal Express is not the developer. RTJ Copper Ridge, a limited liability company managed by Jerry Soukup, is the developer. The site and building plan were chosen by Federal Express. Soukup's company would construct the building and lease it back to FedEx.

Planning Commission deliberated for an hour before deadlocking. And as they have been in the past, a row of five large garage doors facing Elk River Road was the stumbling block.

The applicants attempted to mitigate the impact of the garage doors in several ways, including installing a row of small windows in them, breaking up the long roof line of the building with stepped parapets, and increasing landscaping to shield them from the view of passing motorists.

Commissioner David Baldinger Jr. said the modifications to the building had satisfied him.

"All of those things combined are just enough to meet the architectural guidelines," Baldinger said. "My main concern was mitigation of the impact of the garage doors."

Commissioner Dana Stopher remained adamantly opposed to the building as proposed.

"I cannot in good faith say to my friends and neighbors in this town I voted for this," Stopher said. "And I'm not going to vote for this."

FedEx Project Manager Larry Muckridge said he's still hopeful that if his project can win the approval of city council next month, construction can still begin this season.

Voting against FedEx Thursday night were commissioners Vince Hooper, Shelley Pastachak, Stopher and Curtis. Voting for the project were Joe Fogliano, Tony Connell, Baldinger and Kathi Meyer.

The difficulties FedEx is having in getting its new building approved have some local business people, including interim Steamboat chamber director Sandy Evans, concerned that the company could move its base of operations from the Steamboat airport to Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden.

When the possibility of moving to YVRA was put to Muckridge, he was noncommittal.

"We're not here to threaten anybody, that's for sure," Muckridge said after Thursday night's recommendation of denial by Planning Commission. But he added that if City Council ultimately denied the new building on the chosen site, his company would open its search for a new facility to "all possibilities."

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail tomross@amigo.net

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