Habitat loses with 84 Lumber pull-out | VailDaily.com

Habitat loses with 84 Lumber pull-out

Scott N. Miller

EAGLE ” Tom Healy was feeling pretty low Tuesday.

Healy, the director of the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, learned Monday the local nonprofit group wouldn’t get a generous new friend, at least not soon.

That friend, 84 Lumber, a Pennsylvania-based national lumber yard company, had been looking at building a store in Dotsero, just north of U.S. Highway 6 along the Colorado River and hard against the railroad tracks. The store would have been most visible from the Colorado River Road.

But company officials called Karl Berger of Eagle-Vail, who owns the property, to tell him the firm was canceling its contract to buy the land.

“I’m fine,” Berger said. “I feel bad for Habitat.”

The reason is that 84 Lumber is one of the nonprofit group’s best friends. The store is paying for, and providing volunteer labor for, 50 Habitat homes in New Orleans and Mississippi, as part of those states’ rebuilding efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina last year.

As part of its negotiations with county officials, the company pledged a total of $300,000 to Habitat, and also promised to always provide the local charity with building materials at just pennies above its cost.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” Healy said. “It would have done us a lot of good.”

So why did 84 Lumber pull out of its deal for a store at Dotsero? It depends on who’s talking.

“We looked at our costs and our return on investment,” company spokesman Jeff Nobers said. “We have a formula, and it wasn’t working at this site.

“You have to be savvy enough to recognize that,” Nobers added. “It’s not the first time we’ve done this.”

Berger isn’t sure what happened, but suspects something fishy went on.

“Between Friday and Monday, something happened to change their minds,” Berger said.

At a Tuesday meeting of the Eagle County Commissioners, Berger told the board a company attorney had told him county officials had asked for more “public benefits.”

Assistant County Attorney Bob Morris said that wasn’t so. Morris acknowledged that he and 84 Lumber attorney Michael Sheldon talked over a beer in Edwards on Friday of last week, so Sheldon could get an idea of what 84 Lumber would need to do to get its application approved.

That application was shaping up to be a tough one, since the county’s planning staff and the Eagle County Planning Commission had both recommended denial of the plan.

“I told him the real task is, at the site visit, to persuade the commissioners this is an appropriate site,” Morris said. “We weren’t negotiating.”

While this plan is done, 84 Lumber may not be finished with Eagle County.

“We do want to be in the area,” Nobers said. “We had looked at other property there.

We’ll go back and look at those sites.

“We figure our stores can serve a radius of about 75 miles,” Nobers said. “If we’re within that radius, we it will work.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or smiller@vaildaily.com.

Vail Daily, Vail Colorado

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