From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 105, Number 36 - September 4, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Centerpoint developer frustrated by delays

by Stephen Crane

Centerpoint LLC came before the Town Council last week and left empty-handed once again.

For the third time in a matter of months, the building permit it was trying to acquire was not granted, adding to the delays that continue to impede the project.

The project calls for 24 log cabins to be built just off Pine Street on the property of what is now ZZz Inn, at the east end of Pinedale. The current, 10-room motel would be razed, and in its place would be an upscale hotel, with 16-by-24 foot cabins. “It is impressive,” said Jim Engstrom, a local partner for the proposed development.

“It’ll be the nicest place in town.”

Engstrom has been present for the Town Council meetings, voicing his opinion and trying to find a solution to the hurdles that arise, but he feels it has become an uphill battle.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” said Engstrom. “It’s a very simple process, and it seems to all of a sudden become very difficult.”

Engstrom’s frustration stems from the fact that Centerpoint LLC has come before the council three times for this project, and each time, more reasons are given for why the permit cannot be issued.

As it stands, the builders have met all requirements related to building ordinances, including property drainage, a fact to which Town Engineer Eugene Ninnie has attested. But proper drainage of town streets has been a plaguing problem, since the project calls for access to the property using Haystack and Canal streets, which have a history of periodic flooding. And currently, those streets are dirt, while the adjacent parking lot of the proposed site would be paved.

In the most reason application, the architectural drawings showed Haystack and Canal streets as paved, which would help resolve the drainage issue. The builder, however, does not feel compelled to fund those improvements since they are public streets. The cost of those improvements would be $301,000.

“I kind of like the project,” said Mayor Stephen Smith. “The problem is they’ve come to us with some site plans that Haystack and Canal are going to be finished by the town, and that was a big assumption on their part.”

Councilman Dave Smith, who has voiced his hesitation throughout the process, echoed Mayor Smith’s sentiments.

“I don’t have a problem with the project,” said Dave Smith. “What I have a problem with is the town doing street work when it only benefits one person. There are other priorities for infrastructure that are much higher than that street.”

The developer has revised the drawings multiple times, trying to find a compromise and solution to the problems voiced by members of the council.

But the fact that he is unwilling to pay for the streets to be paved remains at the core of the debate.

At the meeting last week, he even asked if the streets could remain dirt, while still allowing for his project to begin construction. The answer was no. The drainage must be addressed.

Town Attorney Ed Wood offered to draft a liability agreement, which would allow the streets to remain dirt and would also clear the town of any possible lawsuits in the future if the property were to be flooded. But it was not enough for the council to approve the building permit.

“I would rather see the street done properly or not done at all,” said Dave Smith. “Almost every developer, almost being the key word, will not take responsibility for the project. It’s much easier to stop that situation by never allowing it to happen in the first place.”

After being turned down again last week, Engstrom’s frustration was at the tipping point.

“For the first time in my life, I thought about writing something to the editor,” said Engstrom.

Instead, he is considering a whole new design for the project, though he said he would prefer to stick with the original log cabin design. “We roughed out a two or three-story hotel,” said Engstrom, “just like everything else.”

Centerpoint LLC is on the agenda for Monday’s Town Council meeting once again, and it will have two architectural drawings on hand. Engstrom hopes at least one of the two will make the cut.

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