Teller Waste Scales Another Big Hurdle

Photo by CR Chambers

by Rick Langenberg:



TCW may face additional road improvement costs……
Teller County Waste is nearing the finish line in its regulatory plans to expand its operations in Woodland Park and develop a community-wide recycling center.

Last week, TCW won another big victory as the Woodland Park Planning Commission by a 7-1 vote granted the company conditional and special use permits and approved their site plans, with a laundry list of conditions they must comply with. From a planning standpoint, this clears the path for TCW to provide more services at its nearly 2-acre site off West Street, do vehicle repair and maintenance there, have a main office and offer a free recycling center, which would operate six days a week. This approval was significant, as TCW only faces one more major regulatory obstacle and that involves final approval by the city council. Most likely, a final hearing will be scheduled on Nov. 7, according to Woodland Park Planning Director Sally Riley.

TCW’s progress is being closely monitored by county officials and nearby residents, who have strongly objected to the annexation of the property and the overall development plan. “I don’t care what they (city officials) say, this is a trash transfer station,” said Diane Allen, a nearby property owner, who along with a group of resident in the area, has encountered previous problems with TCW and their predecessor company, Woodland Landscape Material and company owner Jay Baker. “We are not done yet.”

However, city leaders have maintained that the TCW plans offer a good opportunity for the community and will give Woodland Park officials more control over their site and the operations. “We are very excited and are looking forward to moving ahead,” said Mike Perini, a spokesman for TCW, in commenting on the positive verdict by the planning commission. “We believe this is great for the community.”

Perini stressed the fact that the commission approved the TCW permits by a near unanimous vote. He is optimistic that the company will fare well in its final hearings before the city council. The TCW spokesman has advocated the advantages of recycling and has urged local and county leaders to look at the big picture.
The company’s permits and site plans will be presented before the city council this Thursday, but only for an initial reading of the permit requests and associated ordinances. No public comment is accepted at these sessions, which typically set the date for a public hearing.

More additional costs predicted

However, while winning a key victory, TCW will need a bigger pocketbook. Under a compromise agreement mulled between city and county officials, the company may have to pay double the amount of road improvement costs regarding the proposed enhancements to a 2,500-foot section of Teller 231, the main thoroughfare that customers must access when driving to and from the new recycling center, than what was originally proposed. “We are getting closer to resolving the road issue with the county,” said Riley, following last week’s hearing. Under the latest round of negotiations between the county and the city, Riley said TCW may have to add an asphalt paving application to a portion of the road in question that is owned by the county at an improvement cost estimated at $40,000, which is more than double the improvement cost that TCW originally agreed to. She said late last week that the city is still working with the applicant regarding the road situation.

Originally, the city merely asked TCW to do a chip and seal paving addition, which would have cost about $17,500. But county officials have indicated that these enhancements aren’t nearly enough. “The 17,000 proposed in the annexation agreement, and the belief that a chip and seal overlay would make CR231 adequate, is not sufficient to meet the adequacy requirements of the Teller County Roadway Design and and Construction Standards,” stated Lor Pellegrino, a senior planner for Teller County.

In fact, the county had suggested road improvements that would have cost close to $100,000. And in several strongly-worded staff reports, the county strongly opposed the development and contended that the project violates the Woodland Park city charter, the county’s growth management plan and Teller transportation and infrastructure standards and isn’t zoned properly since it is located next to a number of county residents and is close to Hwy. 24. Moreover, they listed at least 16 conditions that would like to see addressed, a number of which are similar to concerns expressed by nearby residents.

The city, however, painted a much different picture in its staff analysis. “I believe that the city’s ability to control the proposed uses on this site and services provided by Teller County Waste are a benefit to you and the community at large,” said Riley, who indicated that the improvements requested by the city will greatly improve this site. “We look forward to establishing a long-term partnership with Teller County Waste as a successful business operation within the city of Woodland Park.

It is rare that local government entities clash over business development proposals in this fashion. Besides objecting to the TCW project and their conditional and special use permit requests, the county recently filed motions for the city to reconsider the annexation of the TCW property altogether, saying proper procedures weren’t followed and that the road improvements requested by the city are completely unsatisfactory. These motions are currently being reviewed by city attorney Erin Smith. Perini has maintained that the county’s concerns were addressed in detail during the original annexation hearings.

Riley, though, believes that if the road issue can get mitigated, the county/city fight over this project will end. “The road issue is the crux of their complaints,” said the planning director. Despite vastly different opinions about the project, no county representatives spoke at last week’s hearing. However, two top Teller officials attended the hearing and were prepared to answer questions, according to Riley.

As for opponents of the project, time is running out. Riley has cited the final council hearing as the last government hurdle for the company to scale, in order to legally proceed. But according to Allen, the opposing residents may try to get state officials to intervene. “We really appreciate the county’s support, as they have been a good ally. But we are back to where we were when this whole thing started,” said Allen, following last week’s hearing.

Even if TCW scales all local hurdles, it’s still unclear when the TCW recycling center and expanded trash operation will get started. The costs of site improvements are estimated at $261 000, according to JPS Engineering. Many of these enhancements would have to be completed before the company can open for expanded business in Woodland Park. However, the road improvements would not have to be done by this time, but some type of bond or insurance payment must be made by TCW to ensure the paving and infrastructure enhancements occur.