Grand Junction voters on Tuesday agreed to disrupt some of the city's major transportation routes — in the name of growth and progress — by approving a ballot question that will allow the city to borrow millions for key road improvement projects.
City voters also agreed Tuesday to tweak lease limitation rules when it comes to properties in and around the ambitious Las Colonias business park under development now.
Both approvals are expected to have wide impacts on the local business and economic development communities.
"I think we see what happened on the Front Range, and how their transportation infrastructure does not support their growth," said Robin Brown, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership. "I'm really, really encouraged that we are addressing it before it's a problem."
Unofficial results Tuesday night showed Grand Junction voters approved the roads measure — 2A — by 54.3 percent to 45.7 percent.
With passage, voters authorized between $50 million to $70 million in new debt, which will go to fund a list of projects already identified by city officials.
Another part of the question will allow revenues after 2022 that exceed spending limits set forth by the state's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, and funds currently being used to service debt associated with the Riverside Parkway project, to be used to service the new voter-approved debt.
Major projects expected to be tackled first are led by a widening of 24 Road from Patterson to Interstate 70, a new roundabout serving River Road and Redlands Parkway near the Junior Service League Park, and creation of an F 1/2 Road Parkway connecting 24 and Patterson roads.
Other roads projects — including improvements to Patterson Road, a new roundabout at G and 27 1/2 roads, and other upgrades near numerous area schools — are expected to be completed within five or six years, city officials have said.
"Those kinds of projects will be a big win for businesses and a big win for the community overall, in terms of managing the growth we're seeing and providing the infrastructure that we need," said Diane Schwenke, CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.
She likened Tuesday's vote to the effort to build the Riverside Parkway years ago.
"When you take a look at how that changed the landscape in terms of moving traffic, I think we're going to see something similar when we see the impact of all these projects take place," Schwenke said.
City voters also approved Question 2B — unofficially 58.5 percent to 41.5 percent, as of Tuesday night — which will allow long-term leases up to 99 years primarily in the Las Colonias Business Park south of downtown.
The city's current charter only allows for city-issued leases of up to 25 years, and the 99-year exception was viewed as a step required for the park to land new tenants.
Prospective tenants of the park — which is anchored by local outdoor recreation manufacturer Bonsai Inc. — have balked at the idea of building new facilities at Las Colonias because of the lease limitation, citing issues with securing financing for projects.
"(Las Colonias) will really be an awesome tool to help us recruit businesses, and grow that new river district that's going to be a huge economic driver," GJEP's Brown said. "It's an amenity that the community is really going to enjoy, and will be one more reason to live here."
Grand Junction voters previously rejected a blanket change to the city's 25-year lease rules in the April election. But Tuesday's approval signaled that they were more amenable to the precisely tailored question put before them this election.