Trucking firm’s plan to develop parcel near river may go to Colorado Supreme Court
A yearslong battle over zoning and a company’s right to develop its land along the Colorado River has been submitted for review to the Colorado Supreme Court.
Brady Trucking, 356 27 1/2 Road, has been stalled in developing nearly 13 acres purchased in 2006 as litigation over land usage has wended through the courts. The trucking company’s plan to expand was hampered after litigation ensued from a petition drive by an environmental group and local residents who opposed approval by council members to allow a mixture of light-industrial and industrial-office-park zoning for the area.
Chuck Johnson, vice president of Brady Trucking, said he believes the chance is better than 70 percent for the case to be accepted and heard by the state court.
“It goes beyond a question of zoning. It’s a question of usage,” Johnson said. “We’ll either allow the Supreme Court to rule on the validity of it or take it to the court of public opinion.”
If the case is not heard by the higher court, Johnson said the next step is to let voters decide on the land’s zoning, putting it on the ballot for an upcoming election.
Michael Russell, attorney for Brady Trucking, said it may take months for a response on whether the Supreme Court will review the case. However, Russell said the court may take an interest in the case because it would address a statewide issue.
“This decision really undermines the notary statute,” he said. “This is a case of first impression. It’s never been reviewed or looked at by the Supreme Court.”
In 2009, after petitions were filed by a group opposing Brady Trucking’s plan, Grand Junction City Clerk Stephanie Tuin ruled that notary public Candi Clark should not have notarized a page that she also signed as petitioner. Tuin threw out all of the 18 signatures on that page, leaving petitioners short of the minimum number of petitions required for the drive.
Harry Griff, an attorney for the petitioners, filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging the signatures were improperly disqualified. Mesa County Chief District Judge David Bottger sided with Tuin in a ruling.
Griff then filed the case with the Colorado Court of Appeals, which reversed the ruling.
After first purchasing the land, Brady officials spent about $500,000 cleaning up the area, which includes a long-shuttered rendering plant. More funds have been wrapped up in years of litigation, Johnson said.
Johnson said his company would like to further clean up the area that contains the hull of the rendering plant and other construction materials strewn about, but he fears his business would be slapped with an injunction if it made such a move.
If allowed to develop the riverfront site, Brady officials have offered to separate the business operation from the nearby area with a wall, plant landscaping and give a 50-foot easement for trails.
The company said it would use the site’s western end, nearest to the pedestrian bridge that connects to Orchard Mesa, to park trucks. It plans to construct office space on the site’s eastern end.
Brady Trucking employs 100 people and has offices in Vernal, Utah; Farmington, N.M.; and Williston, N.D. The trucks that are parked on the company’s site haul “sandbox sand” to and from drilling areas, Johnson said.
Johnson said the business is ready to expand and could use its extra land.
“I know what I’d like everybody to do is to put themselves in our shoes. We’re not a big company,” Johnson said. “When we bought (the land), all of sudden they didn’t want it to be zoned industrial. We just want to go truckin’. That’s all we want to do.”
The issue that received ample press in 2009, thanks to its back-and-forth litigation and community involvement, may bubble up again soon.
Local leaders are revisiting ideas for Grand Junction’s Las Colonias Park, about 100 acres to the east of Brady’s land. Some officials and residents have long wanted to see a public amphitheater at the site, and preliminary designs show a theater that can accommodate 3,000 people.
Grand Junction City Council members have expressed interest in developing more parks, but they have not identified funding or a priorities list to tackle that project.
Griff, the attorney for petitioners against Brady’s industrial zoning, also is a proponent of the amphitheater.
“The issue is what (zoning) is appropriate for the riverfront,” Griff said.
The city at one point was working with a land trust on purchasing Brady’s land to settle the issue, but the conditions of the purchase didn’t align with the city’s time line for developing the area, said Laurie Kadrich, Grand Junction’s city manager.
“I bet it’s been two years since I’ve heard an offer or a discussion,” she said.
Johnson said the company would be willing to sell the riverfront acreage for its fair market value.
Western Colorado Congress, a group focused on conservation, helped spearhead the petition drive in an attempt to keep industrial uses from the riverfront.
Brady’s land is not the only land along the Colorado River corridor zoned industrial.
“As a community group we need to deal with this,” said Lee Gelatt of Western Colorado Congress. “We’d love to have appropriate zoning up and down the river. We have all these spot fires. It’s a no-brainer that we stand up for a beautiful riverfront.”