LOGAN – In the face of vocal opposition from local business owners, Logan City officials quickly backpedaled Tuesday on a plan to build a new fire station on the corner of Federal Avenue and 100 East Street.
City planners had hoped to come away from Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Logan City Council with approval of $325,000 for the design of the project, but the agenda item never got past the public comment phase of the meeting.
More than a dozen residents and business owners addressed the council members and only two voiced any support for the proposal to relocate the Logan City Fire Department’s aging Station 70 into the heart of the Federal Avenue business district.
LCFD Station 70 — now located at 76 East 200 North — houses one four-man fire department unit and serves as the LCFD’s administrative headquarters. That station was built in 1974 and is the oldest facility currently operated by the Logan City Fire Department.
In a presentation to council members, LCFD Chief Brad Hannig defended the proposed relocation plan.
Hannig listed numerous problems associated with the aging station, including replacing the roof, improving energy efficiency, providing quarters for female firefighters and addressing concerns about seismic safety.
“We have spent the past year-and-a-half researching options and locations (for a replacement for Station 70),” the chief explained. “We first explored rebuilding in our current location, but that ultimately compromises our service delivery for the entire span of the construction project. To me, that’s unacceptable.
“Because the city already owned the property, that’s why the 100 East location became our preferred option. But we looked at many other options, including residential neighborhoods and rebuilding in some commercial areas. But that translates to the city either using eminent domain or purchasing expensive property.”
Hannig also emphasized that it was essential that the new fire station be located close to the current location of Station 70 in order to maintain that unit’s rapid response time to emergency situations.
As is often the case in the downtown Logan area, the factor that makes the relocation of the fire station controversial to business owners is parking. Although city officials say that parking spaces lost to the new fire station’s footprint would be eventually replaced on a one-for-one basis when the current Station 70 is demolished, local business owners aren’t buying that story.
During the public comment phase of Tuesday’s meeting, all the speakers voiced support for the fire department and acknowledged the need for Station 70 to be replaced. But area business owners also agreed that siting the new fire station on the corner of 100 East St. and Federal Ave., where it would occupy a significant portion of the existing parking lot, would be a death sentence for their nearby enterprises.
“Everybody knows that change is hard,” said Peggy McDonald, co-owner for nine years of Leilani Salon & Spa on 100 East. “This isn’t about change for us. It’s about the end of our business. There is no way that we will survive without that parking lot directly across 100 East.”
Jason Holmes of Achievement Realty said that restriction of parking would “change everything” for his business on Federal Avenue. Holmes added that, by his count, a total of 77 downtown businesses would be negatively impacted by siting the new fire station at 100 East and Federal Avenue.
According to Sarah Coulson, also of Leilani Salon & Spa, those businesses would include Mama’s Kitchen, the ANEX (AKA the Ice Box), Caffé Ibis, Sunrise Cyclery, Le Nonne Restorante Italiano, Lucky Slice Pizza, the Antique Rose, Achievement Realty, Spirit Goat and others.
In her remarks, Coulson questioned why, if planning for the new fire station has been in progress for 18 months, most local business owners only learned about the proposal two weeks ago.
The most blunt comments of the night came from Jeff Keller of Sunrise Cyclery.
“The parking lot is critical …” argued Keller, who owns three properties on 100 East. “Moving the parking lot (to 200 North) and calling it a one-for-one trade is B.S. Pure B.S.!”
Keller also challenged city officials’ statements that most of the affected business owners and residents in the Federal Avenue area had been notified about the proposed relocation of the fire station.
Jason Henderson, a property owner on 100 East, echoed that same concern.
“I want a new fire station,” Henderson said. “I want people to be safe and protected. But I question the city’s methods.
“I’m frustrated that I was never consulted by anyone from the city. (Chief Hannig) said in both written and verbal testimony that he had spoken to most of the people in this area. That was not the case for me. I’ve gone door-to-door and talked to many people who had never been spoken to by the chief … I‘d like there to be more transparency and more study about this issue.”
Only Russ O’Donnell and Gail Yost spoke wholeheartedly in favor of the fire station relocation plan, saying that rapid response times by firefighters and emergency personnel were more important than monetary concerns.
Even before the public hearing, Mayor Holly Daines acknowledged that city officials needed to devote more time and research to the station relocation issue.
Members of the City Council agreed, voting unanimously to table the issue until city officials can provide additional information, including a traffic study on 100 East, other possible relocation sites and alternative parking options.