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Schenck still claims he hasn't taken a position on a potential Nike complex. "I can be for it or against it depending on what is proposed," he says.
Golden city manager Mike Bestor found himself on the hot seat along with Schenck last week after a letter he wrote to a Nike official describing the company's plans as "exciting" was obtained by the project's critics through an open-records request. But Bestor speculates that if Nike really does decide it wants to come to Golden, the issue may ultimately be settled by city voters, who could overturn a council decision through a special ballot issue. "If people don't like what council does, it can be referred to a referendum," he says.
To get thousands of commuters up and down the mountain, the city would have to build a road that connects to C-470 and Sixth Avenue. The most likely route would be past the Jefferson County Government Center, across Old Golden Road and up the southwest side of South Table.
And Bradley makes it clear that, once that road is built, he sees a Nike complex as just the beginning. He envisions a thriving corporate community on top of the mesa, with dozens of buildings housing businesses, retail centers and even wholesale fashion outlets. "The Bradley and Coors families believe in unified planning for all of the top of that mountain," says Bradley.
Nike has yet to make any decision about where or even whether it will build a new corporate campus. The company is looking in several Western states and makes it clear that it will take as much time as it likes before making a commitment. "We have some further research to do and are under no self-imposed deadline to conclude our selection process," says Nike spokesman Lee Weinstein.
Weinstein declines to comment on Nike's interest in South Table, but high-level Nike executives have met repeatedly with Bradley and with Golden officials. Colorado is said to be favored over several other states the company has investigated, although some believe Nike is conducting its highly visible search in order to pressure Oregon officials to cut the company a better deal there.
If Nike does go ahead with its plans, it will likely find itself embroiled in a zoning battle in Golden. In that event, Nike executives might find themselves experiencing dejà vu, since the company first started looking at sites in Colorado and other states after it became entangled in a zoning dispute in Beaverton, Oregon, the Portland suburb Nike calls home.
The sportswear company acquired 74 acres of land near its current Beaverton headquarters in 1996. That land was zoned for multiple uses, and Nike officials asked the city to let it build a corporate campus for 5,000 new employees there. However, the land is along a light-rail line, and city officials want to see housing built there to bolster ridership on the line. The city told Nike it would have to use 20 percent of the land for housing, prompting furious Nike officials to start their out-of-state search.
The company has also complained that Oregon officials were courting California semiconductor companies with hefty tax breaks but neglecting a homegrown business that wanted to expand. And it hasn't hesitated to use Table Mountain as a bargaining chip. "We hope that Oregon would want to see expansion," Nike president Tom Clarke told the Portland Oregonian last spring. "There's no way the state of Colorado isn't going to be excited."
Whether or not Nike is serious about South Table Mountain, its interest in the site has triggered a firestorm in Golden. And the flareup is only the latest chapter in the battle over the mountain.
Besides the Bradley and Coors properties, the land on the mesa is divided between several other owners. The state of Colorado owns several hundred acres, which is used for a highway patrol test track. The federal Department of Energy owns 183 acres for its National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is housed at the southern base of the mountain. The only designated park land is 85 acres owned by Jefferson County on the mesa's eastern slope, another 80 acres leased by the county, and 80 acres owned by the City of Denver as part of its mountain parks system.
But it's the Bradleys' and Coorses' property on the west end of the mesa that's been in constant contention for much of the past two decades. Before most people in Jefferson County had even heard of Nike, residents were fighting Bradley over several different proposals to mine gravel on the land.
Stone has been quarried on the mountain before; in fact, earlier in the century, rock taken from South Table was used in building Camp George West and for riprapping the channel of the South Platte River in Denver. But Bradley wanted to develop an enormous quarry that would have taken at least 80 million tons of gravel off South Table, enough to fill Mile High Stadium 25 times.
Bradley and Coors first proposed a quarry on top of South Table in 1975. After 98 public hearings, the Jefferson County commissioners finally turned down Bradley's rezoning request in 1982. Six years later the proposal was revived but was withdrawn following a public outcry. In 1992 Bradley went to the state Mined Land Reclamation Board to request a mining permit for South Table. That body turned down his request in 1994, citing a lack of adequate environmental and engineering studies. (Even if the board had granted Bradley's request, the county commissioners still would have had the final say.)