Costco plans store in Gypsum
GYPSUM – The land deal isn’t clinched yet, but there are plenty of other signs that big-box retailer Costco is coming to Gypsum.Last week Costco filed a building permit application with the town for a 159,000-square-foot retail center in the Airport Gateway Commercial Park. On Tuesday evening, the Gypsum Town Board approved an economic development agreement that spells out the details of how the town will share sales tax revenues with Costco for the next three to five years.Costco officials refused to comment. The building permit indicates that the big box store will offer groceries, bakery goods, a deli, a pharmacy, gas, tires, appliances and liquor. The national retailer will be Eagle County’s first big box store west of Avon.The store will be located on a large lot adjacent to Highway 6, and just east of the Eagle County airport. The land deal was not yet final at press time.”I think it will be wonderful. It will be a huge bonus for locals,” said Gypsum resident Leah Hall, who has a family of five. “It will definitely save on trips to Grand Junction or Denver to get bulk food.” On the other hand, she admits to some concern about how a big-box retailer might affect local businesses. “I think it might hurt Columbine Market Pharmacy, and the Eagle Pharmacy – I’m not sure how that’s going to pan out in the long run,” she said.
Quiet processLast year, a proposed big-box development in Eagle generated months of debate in that town, and some heated opposition from local merchants and citizens who feared its impacts. After eight months of talking, the town board denied the project.In comparison, the Gypsum negotiations, while rife with rumors, have taken place quietly and generally out of the view of the public. Tuesday’s economic development agreement was the first time Costco has appeared on a public agenda.”We’ve been back and forth (with Costco) for a year,” Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll said. “We’ve been waiting for them to make commitments … this stuff just turned big 60 days ago,”He said the Town Council has discussed the economic development agreement in executive session. Such closed sessions for legal matters are allowed under state law.One of the reasons that a big-box retailer has been able to slip relatively quietly into Gypsum is because the zoning is already in place at the Airport Gateway Commercial Park. The Eagle project required a zone change, which triggered the public review.”The location helps. It’s not right in someone’s neighborhood, or in an open space entrance to town. There’s not 80 head of elk laying out there. It is not Red Mountain Ranch,” said Shroll, referring to the proposed development that Eagle denied.
What Gypsum will get … and giveShroll said that once the store is up and operating, Costco officials estimate it will do $80 million a year in retail sales. Shroll said revenues from Costco alone will double the town’s current sales tax receipts.Gypsum has a four percent sales tax. However, two percent of Gypsum’s sales tax is pledged to specific purposes – one percent goes to the new recreation center, and one percent goes to the town hall and other capital projects. The economic development agreement calls for the town to rebate 38 percent of the sales tax that Costco generates for three years; or until a $4.2 million cap is reached – whichever comes first. If the revenue cap isn’t met in three years, the town will rebate 15 percent of the sales tax for an additional two years.Last summer, while both Eagle and Gypsum were courting big-box developers, the two town councils struck a deal for sharing sales tax revenues generated by major retailers. Under the terms of the agreement, if a major retailer landed on specified parcels of land in either town, half of the uncommitted sales tax revenues will be shared in a 60-40 split. The “host” town would get the larger percentage of the sales tax.Shroll estimated that in Costco’s first years of operation, Eagle would get about $230,000 annually in sales tax, and Gypsum would get $350,000 in addition to the sales tax revenues that are committed or rebated.
He’s pleased with those economic prospects.”That means the rec center will get paid off in half the time,” says Shroll. The town had originally anticipated it would take 20 years to pay for the $12.2-million project.What Costco bringsCostco will pay for traffic lights at Highway 6 and Cooley Mesa Road – estimated cost is $500,000 – and for several hundred linear feet of improvements to Highway 6. Shroll said increased traffic is expected to be the biggest impact. The store will have three entrances off Cooley Mesa Road.Costco will hire 200-300 employees, which will make it the second largest employer in Gypsum. The school district is the biggest employer in the town.Shroll said this is the first time Costco has come to a community with less than 150,000 residents. Currently, the closest Costco is in Denver.”They’re excited about coming to a small, rural place,” Shroll said.
Gypsum resident Mary Kate Ewing, who has a family of six, says she puts off buying in bulk until she gets to a bigger town, such as Grand Junction or Denver. She says the new Costco will be her first choice for bulk shopping. However, Ewing intends to continue patronizing local businesses.”I tend to do my normal weekly shopping at the local grocery stores. I won’t stop,” she said.Shroll said the town is talking with local businesses, and will watch the trends. He was optimistic about the health of the existing business community.”I think we will still need a grocery store,” he said. “I need a jar of mayonnaise, not a jug of it.”Vail, Colorado
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