Council’s decision to approve the extension proved exceedingly lengthy and difficult, not unlike the original approvals process three years ago. As approved in 2007, the three-story addition into the grocery store’s existing parking lot will include a 20,000-square-foot expanded grocery store, four units of employee housing and six new free-market condominiums. The total size of the building will be 58,000 square feet with parking underground. All told-the application was in the approvals process for three years.
Ramon Escure, representing Clark’s Market owner Tom Clark, said they are requesting an extension in order to secure commercial financing, which has not yet been possible do to the troubled economy.
“Funds are just not available for commercial real estate,” Escure said. “Financing will not be there until the market improves. The owner has a vested interest in the project of $9 million. We have adequately demonstrated that Tom is committed to this store but because of market conditions, he has not been able to proceed.”
Clark was also on hand to reassure council that he is indeed vested in the project.
“I am totally committed to doing the project,” Clark said. “It’s a promise. We have, as of today, invested over $1.2 million in the process. We have eight or 10 semi loads of equipment waiting for when we can get going. I do need the three-year extension on this for it to stay alive.”
Several councilmembers wanted to discuss some previously approved details of the project involving parking and affordable housing.
“This was a somewhat controversial project that we have all worked very hard on to come up with something that worked better for everybody,” Councilmember David Oyster said. “My real question would be, ‘Does it still work better for everybody?’ and that needs to be looked at real hard to extend the vesting [rights].”
Councilmember Chris Myers echoed Oyster’s concerns.
“Have the needs of the town changed?” Myers asked. “Now is an opportunity to see if it needs to be modified. This is not a clear and easy decision in my mind. There may be a need for change. I don’t know what that is, but it is my job to protect the needs of this community.”
Councilmember Ann Brady questioned Myers’s comments. “Are you recommending that we discard what was agreed to three years ago because we might have a better product if we redo the whole thing?”
“Not might,” Myers answered. “There is definitely a better product out there. At what time do we feel that this needs to be revisited?”
Myers went on to express concern that Tuesday’s hearing was being held in the midst of Telluride’s off-season and that some members of the public didn’t receive the proper notice. “We ought to continue this,” he suggested.
Clark suggested that instead of continuing it, council should make a decision on the extension.
“Let’s do it or don’t do it,” Clark said. “We are not going to do this [project] if we can’t get this extension. A number of people have tried to kill this and we have been through a long, hard, difficult and expensive process. We ended up with a great project for Clark’s Market. It is a great project for the town. It is a great project. I can’t do it again. If you can’t give us an extension, if that seems so onerous, the guys that wanted to kill it win, and I will get a tax write off.”
At that point council took a vote, approving the extension 4-2, with Myers and Councilmember Thom Carnevale dissenting. Councilmember Bob Saunders recused himself from the discussion.