New fire station in Green Valley Ranch is in the works, but a small change is needed

Do you know what the Gateway Impact fee is?
5 min. read
Denver Fire Department’s Station No. 2, on Memphis Street in Green Valley Ranch. April 23, 2024.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Update, May 6: In a block vote, City Council approved an amendment to the Gateway Impact Fee ordinance that changes the location of a proposed fire station in Green Valley Ranch. Council also approved a fund transfer of $1,129,000 that will go towards building the station. Construction is set to begin on the station, that will be located on the northwest corner of Telluride Street and 56th Avenue, either this fall or early 2025.

A new fire station is coming to the Gateway and Green Valley Ranch neighborhood. But first, a city ordinance needs to be amended.

The northwest corner of Telluride Street and 56th Avenue will one day house Fire Station #40, Denver Fire Departments’ newest space. The station is currently in the design phase, which will be completed this summer. And construction is set to begin either this fall or early 2025. 

However, before things continue, City Council needs to fix a technicality.

The station is being paid for partially by the 2018 Elevate Denver bond. It’s also being paid for by the Gateway Impact Fee, a funding mechanism that takes money from development projects and puts it towards regional infrastructure projects. 

This fee was implemented in 2000 by then-Mayor Wellington Webb, stemming from the growing desire to move Denver’s airport from Stapleton to the far northeast.

With the move, the surrounding area of the Gateway and GVR neighborhood needed to be developed. To help fund the changes, Webb “wanted a way for development to pay its own way,” according to Michael Kerrigan, the financial analyst specialist with the city.

Stapleton Airport's old air traffic control tower. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

So, the fee was born and placed into the city’s municipal code, as was the creation of the Gateway Impact Fee Area. The area covers most of the neighborhood; north of Interstate 70, east of Chambers Road, west of Picadilly Road and the rest follows the curve of Peña Boulevard. 

When building permits are pulled from this area, the Impact Fee is added to the permit cost. The fee is adjusted each year based on a Department of Transportation and Infrastructure cost index. 

With the implementation of the fee, a list of infrastructure improvement projects was also created. Those projects lie in the realms of fire stations, parks and trails, roads, and drainage. Money collected from the fee would help fund these projects. The fee was never intended to cover projects fully.  

So, what’s the problem?

Well, when the infrastructure project list was created, the construction of two firehouses were proposed. A southern fire station would be on the corner of 48th Avenue and Laredo Street and a northern station would be on the corner of 64th Avenue and Winchester Street.

A new Denver Fire Department station could take up this side of 56th Avenue in Green Valley Ranch, at Telluride Street. April 23, 2024.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The southern station, Fire Station #2, was completed around 2004 and was actually built at 5300 Memphis St. The northern station, Fire Station #40, will go on Telluride instead. 

So, to make things contractually correct, the Gateway Impact Fee ordinance needs to be amended to fix the addresses. 

That’s it. 

The proposal to amend the ordinance passed through the Finance and Governance Committee on Tuesday and it will go before the full council in May. 

Of course, there’s more to the amendment. Once the new fire station is completed, that will finish the list of fire station projects. The proposed amendment will also allow the money set aside for fire projects to go toward the other categories. The proposal also allows any additional funds to return to the city as reimbursement once all the necessary projects are complete. 

Most of the infrastructure projects are almost completed. 

The list, created in 2000, included the creation of Parkfield Park and Town Center Park, which were partially paid for by the impact fee. Infrastructure projects along 40th Avenue were also completed.

According to Kerrigan, no new projects can be added to the list, unless there’s another proposed change to the ordinance. 

About nine out of the 11 drainage projects have been completed. About three miles of bike lanes need to be added, along with three traffic signals. Extra lanes and medians also need to be added to Tower Road, 56th Avenue, 64th Avenue and Green Valley Ranch Boulevard.

Rendering of the new Fire Station #40 in Green Valley Ranch. Courtesy of Denver Fire.

Those will come in time, mainly because of funding. Since the impact fee was never meant to fully cover projects and the fee itself fluctuates, it’s never clear how much money can go toward these projects.

“It was always intended to be a very long build out,” Kerrigan said.

During the committee meeting, Councilmember Stacie Gilmore noted the extended timeframe and how the funding mechanism is reliant on other funding sources.

Gilmore asked Kerrigan what are some other mechanisms the city and neighborhood could look at to continue moving these projects forward. 

Kerrigan listed the basics: more bond dollars (which are helping pay for the station), grants, general funds and policy implementations. 

But ultimately, it just depends. 

Gilmore added that when council looks at the budget and funds get moved to address shortfalls, as with the border crisis fund, infrastructure projects such as the ones in GVR are then solely dependent on already allocated funds, like the Impact Fee. Thus, the slow pace.

“Money does not grow on trees, and you have to account for it,” Gilmore said. “It’s important for the history and for my neighborhood to understand why sometimes it takes so long for us to get that infrastructure.”

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