If the Shoe Fits

Critics say the fix is in for Nike in Golden. But it won't be easy for the company to leave its imprint on a local landmark.

According to Bradley, he's already met with Nike several times to discuss a possible sale of the land on South Table. He says Nike representatives showed him several renditions of their proposed office complex, which would include elaborate trails, playing fields and swimming pools. Bradley declines to name his asking price for the property, but sources in the real estate community say he told Nike he wanted $100,000 an acre, a figure one describes as "preposterous" for undeveloped land with no services. Under its current agricultural zoning, the land is probably worth about $5,000 per acre.

One problem with building on top of South Table is that there's no public road to serve the property. Originally, Bradley had hoped to extend a road from developer Greg Stevinson's Denver West office park up the relatively low southern slope of the mesa. But Stevinson, who also heads up Jefferson County's open-space advisory board, refused to give Bradley permission to run a road from Denver West.

Stevinson says Denver West already has enough traffic problems without adding 5,000 commuters driving up and down South Table. Traffic from Denver West spills over into adjacent subdivisions, and Stevinson insists he won't do anything to make those problems worse. "People are already filtering through the neighborhoods because of traffic," he says.

Stevinson is working on plans for a major shopping center next to his office park, and he's one of the most powerful developers in Jefferson County. But he makes it clear he would prefer to see South Table remain as open space, and he says if Nike is allowed to build there, the county needs to take action to protect the remaining land on the mesa.

"Nike will either be a catalyst for industrialization of the mountaintop or for preserving the balance of the land," says Stevinson. "Everybody ought to be concerned with the future of North and South Table Mountains. We need to open up a dialogue to talk about what happens on these geologic landmarks."

Stevinson has told the City of Lakewood that he doesn't want it to use Denver West as a stepping stone to annex South Table, and Lakewood officials say they won't try to get their hands on the mesa. But Bradley notes that in order to obtain the services necessary to build on South Table, somebody will have to annex the property.

That means the future of South Table Mountain will likely be determined by Golden. City officials in Golden publicly claim they won't take a position on annexing the mesa until Nike makes a formal proposal. But letters obtained last week by Nike opponents reveal that Golden's mayor and planning director have been actively encouraging Nike to come to South Table since last summer.

In an August letter to Sam Cassidy, former president of the Jefferson Economic Council, Golden mayor Jan Schenck, who also serves as the president of the city council, wrote that "the potential for an environmentally conscious company to develop that location is truly awesome!" Schenck went on to say that city officials were eager "to bring this concept to reality" and predicted that the Golden City Council would support development of the mesa.

In an accompanying letter, Golden planning director Steve Glueck said the city was prepared to offer water and utility service to an office complex on South Table. Noting that as much as three million square feet of commercial space could be built on the land, Glueck told Cassidy that Golden could provide as much water as necessary for the project, as well as treatment of wastewater. He also dangled the possibility of tax breaks from the city, including a sales-tax waiver and "phasing" of utility development fees.

A project outline submitted to Nike by the city in cooperation with the JEC says development on South Table is "supported by the state of Colorado, Jefferson County, and the City of Golden." That outline also notes that Nike would be eligible for 50 percent property-tax rebates from Jefferson County and the Jefferson County R-1 school district for four years if it chooses to build on South Table (the county offers similar tax breaks to all large new employers).

Opponents of developing South Table say the letters from Schenck and Glueck prove that city officials misled them when they claimed Golden hadn't yet taken a position on Nike. "This exposes them as liars," says Doug Ohmans, a member of a citizens' group called Save the Mesas. "No one could ever trust them again. Eighty percent of the people in Golden are against this, but eighty percent of the politicians seem to be in favor of it." (Although no one has conducted a scientific poll of Goldenites, the Golden Transcript has sponsored a weekly straw poll on the issue and has found that an overwhelming number of respondents favor keeping the mesa as open space.)

Schenck says the letter he wrote has been "taken out of context" by activists like Ohmans, and he notes that it's the city's policy to foster economic development wherever it can. "The letter was an encouragement to Jefferson County for them to come forward with some development plan that we could look at," says Schenck. "In no way did it commit city council to do anything. As the mayor, I have to try to encourage economic development."

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