Local contractor takes development outside city, vows not to return | CraigDailyPress.com

Local contractor takes development outside city, vows not to return

Collin Smith

Just outside Craig city limits, a 15,000-square-feet industrial office park is going up.

Lop Behrman, owner of Behrman Construction and a local builder for the past 40 years, chose the location on First Street east of Ranney for a reason.

It’s not in Craig.

“They’ve (the city) changed all of their building requirements,” Behrman said. “All of that stuff. They’re pricing everybody out of town.”

Jim Meineke, chairman of the Craig Planning and Zoning Commission, said he had not heard anyone say the city’s new land use code is too onerous for builders.

The City Council approved the new code, which governs planning, zoning and building requirements, in February 2007.

Behrman originally planned to build a new commercial office building at the old Country Mall site at Ranney and Fourth streets.

He co-owned the mall when it burned down Nov. 25, 2007, in one of the largest fires in Moffat County history, and was told by his insurance company he would have to rebuild to receive payment.

But building inside the city became impossible, Behrman said.

“It was just too much money,” he said.

Between the city’s landscaping, parking, sidewalk, curb and gutter requirements – as well as Colorado Department of Transportation access constraints – Behrman said bringing the Country Mall site into local and state compliance would cost about $250,000.

When he approached the Planning and Zoning Commission about his problem and asked the board to change its requirements, the group stood by the city’s approved land use code.

“I told them what I could do and what I couldn’t do, and they didn’t change anything,” Behrman said. “They said I could resubmit new plans and they’d take it from there. I don’t have time for that.”

Behrman gave two reasons for building soon: the summer construction season is slipping away, and the Country Mall’s insurer gave a three-year timeline to rebuild or it would hold money back.

Thankfully, Behrman said, he received permission from the insurer to move the project elsewhere and still receive payment.

Meineke said Behrman’s statements about the city land use code are the first negative comments he’s heard.

Most of the feedback, he said, has been positive.

“It sounds like special interest people are getting involved,” Meineke said, referring to those in the construction industry. “The reason we have the regulations right now is because of the requests of other community members. I’m getting positive comments from most people.”

Jarrod Ogden, an alternate for Planning and Zoning who also owns Three Sons Construction, said he has some reservations about the code but by and large thinks it is appropriate.

For instance, the code restricts the size of detached garages for residences.

“Craig is a unique community, and lots of folks have a lot of toys,” Ogden said. “I think there are some things that are probably a little restrictive, like that, and we could probably revisit them.”

He noted the code is, for better or worse, largely based on what regulations other communities have installed.

“I respect that opinion, but I think sometimes we don’t keep in mind we’re not a little Steamboat,” Ogden said. “We are Craig.”

It’s unfortunate Behrman moved his project outside the city, Ogden added, because his development could have netted tax revenue for Craig.

Dave Costa, Craig community development director, said he would not comment on Behrman’s project because what happens to it is the developer’s choice. But he said he thinks the new code already has helped improve the community.

“If you look at the commercial properties that have been developed in the last two years – I’ll start with the two Kum & Gos, the new Yampa Valley Bank, the Camilletti building downtown (Mountain West Insurance & Financial Services) – that’s quality stuff,” Costa said.

As it pertained to one of Behrman’s specific issues – that he build square-back curbs along the property, which has limited curbs now – Costa said that has a specific and important purpose.

“We need that for drainage,” he said. “We’re trying to fix some of the problems that were created a while ago when things weren’t built as well as they should have been. We can’t have water washing down Ranney Street, potentially flooding someone else.”

Despite city officials’ reasoning, Behrman said he will never build another development of his own inside Craig.

“Not for myself,” he said. “I’ll build any project anyone else needs wherever they want to build it. But I just don’t have the patience to go through all that stuff, and it’s so expensive.”

Ogden and Meineke invited any residents who have an opinion on the city land use code to attend Planning and Zoning meetings, which take place at 6 p.m. the third Monday of each month at Craig City Hall, 300 W. Fourth St.

There will be no meeting this month because there were no projects on the agenda.

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