School district nixes purchase of carpenters union building in Eagle
EAGLE — Eagle County Schools won’t pursue purchase of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters’ union building in Eagle as a new home for Red Canyon High School.
“The district respects the feedback of the business owners and (Eagle Town Board) trustees and will honor their requests to find a different option,” said Sandra Mutchler, Eagle County Schools chief operations officer.
That decision was welcome news to the owners of the existing and planned marijuana businesses located adjacent to the carpenters’ union building. Both Eagle and Colorado regulations say that marijuana business cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school building, and even if the town and the state grandfathered the businesses, then the threat of federal enforcement would likely doom continued business operations.
Sweet Leaf Pioneer has been open since 2010 and Tumbleweed, a second marijuana operation, is slated to open in a building under construction adjacent to the carpenters union building site. While the town and the state could grandfather the marijuana businesses to continue operations if Red Canyon opened at the carpenters’ union building, then federal government enforcement would be a concern. Eagle Town Attorney Ed Sands said federal officials issued cease and desist orders to marijuana businesses in Denver that were located within 1,000 feet of schools.
Dave and Dienka Manzanares, owners of Sweet Leaf Pioneer, voiced their concerns at a June Eagle Town Board meeting when school district officials floated the purchase idea. Dave Manzanares said opening Red Canyon High School at the carpenters’ union building would likely close his business.
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“It is detrimental to our company if you move in there,” Manzanares told the school officials. “We would have to shut down long before we heard from the feds.”
The Manzanareses were unavailable for comment regarding the school district decision not to purchase the carpenters’ union building.
Testing the idea
Approved in 2011 and opened in 2013 as a Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters union training facility, the building in the Eagle Commercial and Industrial Park only served that purpose for a short period of time and has been vacant for several months.
The building purchase was economically appealing for the school district. For what it would cost to build a roughly 9,000-square-foot new building for Red Canyon, the school district could have purchased the existing 22,000-square-foot structure. In addition to providing classroom space, school district representatives noted the carpenters’ union building would have allowed Red Canyon to expand its vocational education program and the school district could replace the school board room that will be lost when the new Eagle Valley Elementary School construction demolishes the existing administration services building, located at the Third Street campus in Eagle.
But despite those factors in favor of the purchase, the negative impact to the existing adjacent marijuana business was a serious issue for the proposal, and ultimately the school board decided the site wasn’t the best place for Red Canyon.
“We are very grateful the school district listened to the concerns from the board regarding the negative impacts it would have on a viable local business,” said Eagle Mayor Anne McKibbin.
“I am appreciative of the decision the school district has made and grateful and respectful of the due diligence they showed by soliciting input from the town board and the community,” said Eagle Town Board member Matt Solomon.
Forest Service proposal
Eagle was not the only community concerned about the school district’s potential purchase of the carpenters’ union building.
Officials from the town of Minturn weighed in on the matter, noting the U.S. Forest Service has also eyed the carpenters’ union building as a site where it could consolidate its Eagle County operations. Minturn supports that plan because it would free up the existing Forest Service Dowd Junction site for development. That would, in turn, increase Minturn’s sales tax prospects. For Eagle, the Forest Service relocation would mean the addition of 40 to 50 jobs in the community.
“It’s (the school district decision) big for us,” said Matt Scherr, Minturn Town Board member. “That would have been a deal killer on something that’s been moving slowly.”
Scherr noted that the U.S. Forest Service, by its nature as a federal agency, hasn’t been able to move quickly on the building purchase but said that doesn’t mean the deal can’t still happen.
“We really appreciate the school district’s willingness to take our concerns into account,” Scherr said.