At Cortez’s southern entrance stands an abandoned M&M truck stop, riddled with graffiti and broken windows and containing contaminated soil.
The eyesore on 5 acres of private property has long been a perplexing problem, and the Montezuma County Commission has vowed to reach out to the owners to help find a solution.
The once-popular restaurant and truck stop closed in 2001 and has been deteriorating ever since.
It has changed hands a few times, including through the delinquent tax sale process.
In January 2017, a consultant for the previous owner, Abas Energy Inc., announced plans to re-open the restaurant, but nothing materialized.
In June 2017, Jovian Petroleum Corporation of Houston took over ownership, according to the county assessor database.
“It has sat there for 20 years and keeps getting worse. This hurts us as a community,” said Commissioner Jim Candelaria.
A lingering problem is contaminated soil from a fuel spill in the early 1990s. The storage tanks have been removed, but the contaminated soil needs further mitigation, according to the Colorado Division of Oil and Public Safety.
The unmitigated petroleum spill on the property prompted a civil lawsuit by CDOPS in April 2015. Cleanup costs are estimated between $300,000 and $500,000, according to state environmental officials at the time.
But final cleanup has yet to happen, county officials said, and is a hurdle for redevelopment.
The county and property owner may be eligible for so-called “brownfields” grants from the state Department of Public Health and Environment and CDOPS to subsidize cleanup costs, county officials said.
They plan to send a letter to Jovian Petroleum about the issue and explore ways to work together to find possible solutions.
“We want to reach out in a positive way,” Candelaria said.
The state’s Volunteer Clean Up Program is an incentive to rehabilitate industrial sites for redevelopment. It provides environmental site assessments, tax credits, loans, and potentially up to $250,000 in project funding.
The program provides federal and state remedial plan approval. Banks will accept a “No Further Action” letter from the program as assurance that the state or EPA won’t order a costly, conventional cleanup.
The commissioners said the intersection of U.S. Highway 160/491 and County Road G has untapped business potential. Dollar General recently announced plans to build a store on the southwest corner, for example. It is on a major highway, and is an access to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
A local artist has expressed interest in helping to revive the M&M property and intersection by organizing a local art-based cooperative and gallery, Candelaria said.
Other ideas floated over the years are a hotel, apartments, restaurant and gas station.
Other parts of the intersection were discussed by the commission. When a frontage road on the west side was abandoned many years ago, several storefronts could no longer operate because of the lack of public access. The older buildings remain and have been targets of graffiti.
Commissioners also expressed concerns about the Wild Wild West property west of Mancos on U.S. 160. The property also had a petrochemical spill and a cleanup plan was initiated by the state in 2010. Mitigation was to include removal of contaminated soil, re-contouring the property and installing monitoring stations at an estimated cost to the state of $200,000.
After the petrochemical spill, a dissatisfied property owner erected a billboard that read: “Massive Petroleum Spill – Toxic Site” and signs with skull-and-crossbone icons and “This Toxic Mess Brought To You By State of Colorado.” The signs remain on the property.