Phil Castle, The Business Times
Public backlash from business owners and residents has convinced officials to scrap plans to relocate the Greyhound bus station.
The Grand Valley Regional Transportation Committee, a four-member board that oversees Grand Valley Transit, voted unanimously this afternoon to approve a resolution to continue initial planning on a new GVT transfer station on 24 1/2 Road near the Mesa Mall, but without the involvement of Greyhound Lines.
“After careful consideration, and significant public input, we think moving forward without Greyhound makes sense at this location,” said Stacey Mascarenas, a member of the Fruita City Council who serves as chairwoman of the GVT committee.
The resolution also calls for GVT to continue to seek public comments and “possibly pursue other location(s) or opportunities for this, or other intermodal collaborations in the future.”
A public open house is planned for the vicnity of the site in March or April, offering neighbors an opportunity to ask questions and comments. Written comments also will be accepted. Additional opportunities for comment will be available once the city planning review of the proposal begins.
“We will continue to take all of the feedback we receive — both positive and negative — into consideration. Citizen input will continue to be very helpful to us in shaping the proposal as we move forward,” said Todd Hollenbeck, manager of the Regional Transportation Planning Office.
Jodi Niernberg, a businesswoman who manages two commercial buildings near the proposed GVT transfer station just north of the intersection of Patterson and 24 1/2 roads, told the Business Times before the meeting that business owners and residents were most concerned about the prospect of a Greyhound bus station operating nearby. But Niernberg said she remains worried officials still haven’t considered all the issues associated with operating a transfer station and many residents oppose any bus operation.
Steve Aquafresca, a Mesa County commissioner who serves on the GVT committee, said the proposed project remains in an early stage. GVT hasn’t yet applied for any city permits. Nonetheless, he told the Business Times before the meeting he considers the site a good one.
GVT long has been searching for a site for a transfer station near the Mesa Mall, Aquafresca said. GVT buses load and unload passengers in the mall parking lot, but that arrangement isn’t suitable on a permanent basis, he said.
GVT staff identified several parcels in the vicinity that were for sale and bought the 3.6-acre parcel on 24 1/2 Road for $900,000, a purchase funded with grants, Aquafresca said.
A plan to partner with Greyhound Lines at the 24 1/2 Road site and relocate the Greyhound station from Fifth Street in downtown Grand Junction offered a number of benefits, Aquafresca said, including more than $100,000 in annual revenue from the commercial bus service. There also would have been more opportunities to obtain additional grants in operating a multi-modal facility that included Greyhound and GVT, he said. And there would have been the efficiency involved of locating both bus services at the same location.
GVT and the Mesa County commissioners held public hearings on the land purchase and there was little public comment at that time, Aquafresca said. “We did not hear from the public during the early part of the process.”
Moreover, members of the Grand Junction City Council who served on the GVT committee were involved in the process and representatives from the city planning staff attended meetings, Aquafresca said.
Nonetheless, Aquafresca said he appreciates the flurry of public comments that have been made more recently. “It’s still valuable to us.”
Opposition from business owners and residents marshalled in part by Niernberg convinced the Grand Junction City Council to come out against plans to operate both a GVT and Greyhound station at the site.
In a letter dated Jan. 30, Grand Junction Mayor Tom Kenyon and Laura Luke, a councilwoman who also serves on the GVT committee, urged the committee to reconsider. “While the city council does not intend on substituting our judgment for the board’s, we would be irresponsible if we did not let you know that we have concluded that it would be in the best interest of the community and, in turn, GVT, if the commercial bus service terminal is not part of the transfer station project,” the letter stated.
Niernberg said the operation of a Greyhound and GVT station at the site would have had drastic effects on businesses and homes in the area. She cited problems related to bus traffic, a potential increase in criminal activity and decreased property values.
Niernberg said tenants in two commercial buildings she manages for her father, attorney Joe Coleman, expressed concerns about the operation of a bus station next door. An executive with a 10-year tenant in one building stated in a letter that type of use would have affected the viability of the building as a first-class office property and he was considering whether or not to renew the lease.
The operation of a bus station also could affect future development in one of the most important retail and financial areas in the Grand Valley, Niernberg said.
The owners of other businesses in the area have expressed similar concerns about their operations — as have residents, Niernberg said.
Lloyd Hunley, a retired businessman who’s lived in the area for 10 years, told the Business Times he didn’t understand why the site was being considered because of the difficulty in maneuvering Greyhound buses through nearby intersections. “There’s no logical reason to put it there.”
Nearly 100 people attended a Jan. 24 community meeting to discuss the station and more than 1,000 people signed petitions in opposition to the proposal, Niernberg said.
Kenyon told the Business Times before the meeting that public outcry over plans to relocate the Greyhound bus station to 24 1/2 Road was one of the most substantial in the three years he’s served on council. He estimated the council received more than 600 comments and e-mails, nearly all of them opposed to the plan.
Given the level of passenger traffic to and from the Mesa Mall, GVT needs a permanent transfer station near the mall, Kenyon said. But the same site doesn’t constitute a good location for a Greyhound station, he added.
Other sites near the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 & 50 and Interstate Highway 70 or along 24 Road could work better, Kenyon said.
The Downtown Development Authority also has expressed interest in assisting with finding a location that would keep the Greyhound station in downtown Grand Junction, he said.
Niernberg, a member of the DDA board of directors, agreed there are downtown sites for a Greyhound bus station that would work better than the 24 1/2 Road site.