Jarvis site setback needs perspective

Let’s not make too much of the unfortunate developments that threaten to derail a coveted business’s once-enthusiastic plan to relocate along the riverfront.

The city of Grand Junction appears to be doing everything in its power to atone for selling Sunshine Polishing Technology a blemished parcel of the old Jarvis property south of the Riverside neighborhood and bordering the Colorado River.

The area had been a landfill in the 1950s and ‘60s and once held thousands of junk cars before it was purchased by the city and remediated in the 1990s. Unfortunately, no one knew that vestiges of trash remained underground until Sunshine set about excavating the two-acre Lot 5 in May with plans to erect a 5,000- to 6,000-square-foot building to serve as the company’s headquarters.

Once it became clear the lot had a hidden trash problem, the city offered the company a nearby piece of property, which the city agreed to excavate and make sure was clean. The city is footing the bill for the cleanup and has agreed to compensate Sunshine’s owner, Dominique Bastien, for the $7,500 she paid to a surveyor to work on Lot 5.

But the delays have pushed back the construction timeline and the new lot has a different configuration, rendering design work on the building obsolete. Bastien had hoped to be under construction by now and open the doors to her ski-lift and gondola maintenance company by next spring. As it stands, if Bastien were to agree to switch lots — something she hasn’t decided yet — it’s unlikely she would be open until sometime in 2019, the Sentinel’s Joe Vaccarelli reported Wednesday.

Yes, it’s unfortunate that the city’s sloppy remediation work 20-plus years ago threatens what was considered a significant economic development “win.” But the Jarvis cleanup occurred several administrations ago, so it’s hardly productive to blame the current administration which is trying valiantly to revitalize the riverfront area and boost economic development in the Grand Valley as a whole.

Now that the trash problem has been exposed, however, it’s incumbent on the city to make sure the entire 63-acre area is suitable for development, which may involve identifying the edges of the remnant trash pile and capping the whole thing.

Calling it a blessing in disguise is a stretch, but better to discover this now than two or three projects into the plan to develop the Jarvis acreage. Who knows what kind of financial liability may have resulted.

Right up until the moment the excavation of Lot 5 started, this was a coup for the city and the Grand Junction Economic Partnership. The city beat out the likes of the Vail Valley, Montrose, Eagle County and Fruita to land Sunshine and there’s still room to harbor optimism. Bastien said she’s still considering Grand Junction and GJEP Executive Director Kristi Pollard, credited with making the deal happen, is trying to script a happy ending.

Instead of taking on a defeatist attitude that Grand Junction can never get ahead, we have to build on the success of attracting Sunshine in the first place, fix what needs fixing and keep on casting for more business.


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