Business sours on city land deal
Six months after agreeing to an incentive-laden package to relocate to Grand Junction, the owner of Sunshine Polishing Technology says she is looking elsewhere after an excavation of the two-acre lot she bought turned up 60-year-old trash from an old landfill.
The ski-lift and gondola maintenance company that rehabs lift equipment at ski resorts throughout Colorado and around the world was the first of what the city hoped would be many businesses to buy property on the old Jarvis property, south of the Riverside neighborhood and bordering the Colorado River. The Jarvis property is a 63-acre site that once held thousands of junk cars before it was bought by the city in 1990 and rehabilitated.
But Sunshine Polishing founder and president Dominique Bastien has expressed frustration at the delays this discovery has caused, while the city maintains it is doing everything it can to rectify the situation.
“I don’t know at this point,” Bastien said of her plans. “Everything is in the clouds. It looked so perfect when we got together.”
The Grand Junction City Council last month approved the sale of another lot, known as Lot 10, near the original site Sunshine Polishing had purchased and agreed to take back that first site, but Bastien has not yet agreed to the deal and retains ownership of her original parcel, Lot 5.
“Everything is paid for and in my name. I own a dump now, it’s wonderful,” she said sarcastically.
The problems first arose in May when Bastien’s subcontractor began an excavation of Lot 5 and found trash that included newspapers dating back the 1950s on the lot and in the immediate area. The area had been a landfill in the 1950s and 1960s and had been remediated in the 1990s, according to the city.
City spokeswoman Sam Rainguet said the city was surprised to hear that there were still landfill contents on the property.
The city has been excavating Lot 10 and has found some debris one to two feet below the surface, but said it is not from the landfill and could be construction debris. It is still working on the cleanup and will incur all costs as well as pay back Bastien for the $7,500 she paid to a surveyor to work on Lot 5.
“The bottom line for us is that we are working hard to do the right thing here,” Rainguet said in an email. As for what to do with Lot 5 and the nearby area that turned up trash, City Manager Greg Caton said that is still up for discussion, but the priority is to work things out with Sunshine Polishing first.
“We’ll need to discuss options, one of which is to not disturb it and cap it,” Caton said of the trash.
Meanwhile, Bastien said the delay has cost her thousands in potential sponsorship income and new designs. She won’t agree to the exchange until she has assurances from the city that it’s been cleaned up.
She had plans for a $750,000, 5,000- to 6,000-square-foot building to serve as her business’ headquarters that was going to include shipping containers in the design, but she said those plans will no longer work due to the different shape of Lot 10. Bastien said she had a sponsor lined up to give her $50,000 for the containers, but that might be off the table due to the change in design. She declined to name the sponsor.
Bastien had also hoped to be under construction by now and open her doors in spring 2018. As things stand, if Bastien were to agree to switch lots, it’s unlikely she would be open until sometime in 2019.
She said the city has been very responsive to her complaints, but the amount of time it’s taken to get approval for the swap and to complete the remediation has taken a toll that has caused her to sour on the deal. She recently sent a letter to the city stating, “As of now, my fire is gone.”
Rainguet said the city is doing its due diligence to ensure Lot 10 is ready when and if Bastien takes control, but there is no set time frame for the completion of work.
“I can understand that this must be especially frustrating for Sunshine Polishing,” Rainguet said. “We are going through the steps that need to be taken to address the issues that have arisen and sometimes that simply takes time.”
Rainguet added that excavated dirt will be taken to the Mesa County Landfill and replaced with new fill. The county has not officially agreed to take in any of the debris.
When the City Council approved the sale in February, it essentially wrapped up about three months of negotiations with Sunshine Polishing that led to the city beating out the likes of the Vail Valley, Montrose, Eagle County and Fruita for Sunshine’s new home. Bastien paid $20,000 for Lot 5 at that time and received incentives such as a four-year tax abatement on the property and a $1,000 bonus for every employee it hires after that person is employed for a year.
Much of the negotiating was done by the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and Bastien credited GJEP Executive Director Kristi Pollard as a big reason she chose Grand Junction. Pollard remains in close contact with Bastien and hopes to make the transition into Lot 10 as smooth as possible.
“Sunshine is an amazing company and we want to keep their business here and make sure Dominique and her associates are happy. I’m optimistic,” Pollard said.
While Bastien, who relocated to Grand Junction shortly after signing the deal, said she is revisiting old offers, she said business is still good and isn’t ruling out Grand Junction as a final landing spot.
“It’s not a story to cry for. I’ve been in business 20 years. I’m just very sad. It was a good project. It would have been a nice building on the river,” Bastien said. “I’m still considering Grand Junction for sure. Now that it’s busy season, I don’t have time to think about it. Maybe it’ll work out.”