Council, MEDC Need to Work Together Better, Residents Say
MONTROSE — There was no doubt Tuesday that the Montrose City Council would approve the sale of undeveloped land to be used by Federal Express for its new facility on the north side of the city, as the building’s contractor was already in town from Colorado Springs.
By a vote of 5-0, Council approved Ordinance 2337 on second reading, which authorized the sale of two parcels located in the Airport Industrial Park totaling 5.57-acres to be developed as a new 22,840 square-foot Federal Express sorting facility.
The Montrose Economic Development Corporation purchased the property with private investment dollars in 1989 and quick-claimed the property to the city in the early 1990s as a way of avoiding real estate taxes. The sum listed on the deed at that time was $10. With approval, the city will quick-claim the property back to MEDC for $20.
Tuesday’s vote was merely procedural, to fulfill a provision from the city’s charter that states if council is to approve the sale of public land it, it must create and adopt an ordinance.
Ground is expected to be broken at the FedEx location in coming days; earlier this week, T-Bone Construction Inc. of Colorado Springs began delivering equipment to the site.
T-Bone is the contractor hired by Setzer Properties, a company that works closely with FedEx on building new facilities. According to the city, Setzer paid for the building permit last week.
The question that still looms over the transaction is who will receive the proceeds from the sale: the city, or the MEDC? Both parties reluctantly agreed to hold the money in escrow until the issue is resolved at a future meeting.
Mayor Bob Nicholson said the city and MEDC both had “skin in the game,” and that he hopes a future meeting between the two parties “is productive.”
During the hearing, supporters and critics of MEDC exchanged views on MEDC’s history in Montrose.
“MEDC does not have the full respect and trust in this community,” said resident Dennis Olmstead, describing what he said was a lack of transparency from the organization that receives taxpayer funds.
Others wondered if MEDC had moved away from being an economic development company to become a land company. Over the years the city has made improvements to the area proposed for FedEx and now will quick-claim the land, with those improvements, back to MEDC. One critic told council the city was “spending too much and receiving too little from this organization.” Another said all city-controlled MEDC-owned land needed to be returned to MEDC as soon as possible.
Resident Roger Brown said he wants the city and MEDC to split the sale’s proceeds. Last week, during a special meeting, supporters of MEDC said the city had no authority over the land because it was purchased privately by investors of MEDC. They said the city should quick-claim the deed back to the MEDC with no strings attacked.
A representative of Montrose Forest Products LLC, which operates the timber mill, told council the purchase of the mill by Wyoming-based Neiman Enterprises would not have happened without the help of MEDC. He said the mill, with its its 80-or-so jobs, pumps millions of dollars into the local economy, impacting services like fuel sales and housing.
Resident Curtis Robinson, an investor in MEDC and former board member, told the council he was offended by comments that MEDC has done little for the community.
“Just go back and take every business that MEDC has brought to Montrose and add it up, and tell the community what it is so that these people — who imagine they know what the hell they are talking about — could maybe be informed,” Robinson said.
Resident Jim Anderson said the city and MEDC need to work together more ethically, with honesty and transparency, to keep the Montrose area growing, and that back room, hand shake real estate deals need to be eliminated.
Anderson said economic development in Montrose is growing, thanks to the increased openness of city staff, “in ways that have never been done before.”
The council agreed with Anderson. Mayor Nicholson’s statement that details of future deals between the city and MEDC need to be disclosed, with “nothing hidden” and a clear chain of title, drew nods of support from MEDC representatives attending the meeting.
The sale price of the land has yet to be disclosed, but will be made public once the paperwork reaches the county clerk’s office.
There has been no word of when the city and MEDC will discuss proceeds from the sale.