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Editor's note: This story has been revised to provide clarification on some facts.
Evergreen Fire/Rescue is trying to solve an issue with a tenant’s lease in the former Evergreen Mountain Market, especially since the department plans to demolish the building late this year to make way for a new Station 1.
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Evergreen Fire/Rescue is trying to solve an issue with a tenant’s lease in the former Evergreen Mountain Market where the department hopes to build a new Station 1, and the solution could be expensive.
Less than 48 hours after being sworn into office, the new fire board learned on May 12 that while the liquor store owner’s lease ends on Oct. 31, the lease is written in such a way that it cannot simply be broken by the fire department, who is the landlord. The tenant has a one-time option to extend the lease for an additional five years.
The board also learned on May 26 from Rod Atherton of Aegis Law, an attorney specializing in real estate law, that the department might be forced to pay costs for the liquor store to find a new location, move and potentially any difference in rent. If the liquor store could not find a new location, the department likely would be responsible to pay for several years of revenue, he said.
The board decided to continue discussion at the next regular board meeting on June 14 after it does more research.
EFR assumed all of the leases in 2019 when it purchased the property to build a new Station 1. It planned to demolish the Evergreen Mountain Market building late this year and complete the new fire station in 2024. The only tenant remaining from before the fire district bought the building on the original lease is the liquor store.
Fire Chief Mike Weege told the board he was aware of the tenant’s option to renew the lease, and that the fire district was unsuccessful in negotiating a new lease with the tenant in June 2019 that would remove the extension. He said the previous owner also tried to renegotiate the lease.
Weege stated he and the Station 1 Committee assumed the lease would expire on Oct. 31, 2022, since the fire district informed the liquor store tenant that the building would be demolished shortly thereafter.
The liquor store owner has filed his intent to use the five-year option, Weege said.
The fire board requested that the fire district’s regular counsel stop working on the issue since the board voted to hire a real estate attorney, and the district has put a hold on design plans with the department’s architect, F+D International.
“If the lease is terminated by the district, there are ramifications,” Atherton said. “Since the tenant is a liquor store, it has special rules it is subject to for relocation. In particular, this tenant creates some problems. They may not have a lot of options in where they would move.”
Atherton said if the lease dispute ended up in court, a judge could award additional damages if EFR didn’t take into consideration the tenant’s right to stay.
Rebuilding Station 1 is expected to cost about $8 million, and the district has been saving money since 2017 to buy the property and construct the building.
The current station on Highway 73 just south of downtown Evergreen is EFR’s oldest station and is in need of expansion and improvements. The department had hoped to get the station built as Jefferson County makes improvements to Highway 73 between downtown Evergreen and Buffalo Park Road in 2023.
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