Wildwood Convenience Center gains final approvals

7-7wildwood gas station web

Rick Langenberg

With a little luck, Cripple Creek residents, visitors and gamblers may reap the benefits of having a major convenience store and gas station outlet on the east side of town within the next five months.

Last week, the Cripple Creek City Council unanimously signaled the green light for a bevy of regulatory actions that could pave the way for the construction of the new Wildwood General Store, off Hwy. 67, before the end of the year. The development, expected to operate on a 24/7 basis, will include eight Phillips 66 gas pumps, a 3,500 square-foot store area and a Dunkin’ Donuts hub, based on preliminary plans.

The council okayed an emergency law vacating a city alley for needed project infrastructure work, signed off on the development’s final site plan and gave the green light for other land use measures. With this action, the road is clear for construction to begin on a store project that civic leaders have desired for years, even since a popular Total station and store was demolished to make room for the Wildwood casino.

Currently, the only major convenience outlet is on the west end of town, off Teller One, which often provides inconveniences for most gamblers and visitors who enter and exit Cripple Creek, via Hwy. 67.

The only remaining obstacles include approval of signage and designs for other aspects of the store development. These issues will handled by the town’s historic preservation commission. Kevin Werner, the general manager of the Wildwood casino, and a lead representative of the project, expressed optimism that the store would be completed by the end of the year.

The council took a drastic different turn from an earlier meeting, when it appeared that the store development, to be handled by the Arizona-based Store Capital Acquisitions LLC, may encounter some delays that could block the final completion deadline.

The development had to still obtain a final site plan that addressed ways it could grapple with impacts for nearby residents and get a road vacation in the area. The main hurdle for the Wildwood is that the proposed store location abuts a residential neighborhood.

During last week’s hearing, City Administrator Ray DuBois lauded the store developers for the way they have worked with the neighbors. He previously argued that it would work best for the city, the Wildwood and the adjoining residents to move the project forward.

Otherwise, Werner feared that the city may have to deal with a partially built development that could pose a safety hazard. He made a strong pitch for an emergency ordinance, if that’s what it took to move the project forward without any delays or additional hearings. “We are making a pretty good investment in time and money,” said Werner at a meeting in early July. “Any delays create risks and liabilities.”

Unlike the earlier hearing, Werner didn’t have to twist too many arms, as city leaders promptly approved the final regulatory steps.

During public comments, the only concerns raised dealt with storm water drainage and other infrastructure details. These came from local resident Jerry Englehart, a critic of plans for developing a major gas station outlet at this location. Englehart previously cited statistics, indicating a big increase in gas station fires across the country and feared the proposed development could have disastrous consequences for Cripple Creek. He contended that the Heritage Center or Gillette Flats areas would make a better location for this project.

However, the council didn’t support his claims.

The proposed store area will feature much more city infrastructure work, with the Bison water line project. At last week’s meeting, a representative of Earth Works Land Development, made a pitch for the city to speed up their approval process to coordinate the work better in lieu of the current projects in this section of town. Otherwise, the contractor stated that the city would have to pay a much higher bill and incur more delays.

But city attorney Lee Phillips cited requirements that force the city to bid out any public works project that exceeds $5,000.

The council sympathized with the contractor, but contended that their hands were tied.