Main Street Market still up in the air

Wellington’s only grocery store remains open, but who will be operating it at the end of the month remains unclear.

The May 18 closing date set for the Main Street Market by owner Panhandle Co-op of Scottsbluff, Neb., in March came and went without any definitive word on the fate of the store. The co-op halted the liquidation sale in April, and spokeswoman Susan Wiedeman indicated that there had been “new developments” in the effort to continue to offer Wellington residents a local food shopping option.

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Negotiations involving Panhandle, the Wellington Town Board, Delmer Zweygandt who owns the 32,000-square-foot building housing the market, and an unnamed Colorado-based grocer have been ongoing, and several times the parties have seemed to be close to a final agreement. But on May 25, ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, there was still no signed contract.

Although the details under discussion have not been disclosed, one issue on the table is possible abatement of personal and building property taxes than could amount to about $49,000 per year.

According to Town Board member Jack Brinkhoff, the land at Sixth Street and Jefferson Avenue is in an Enterprise Zone, but Zweygandt has never claimed the tax credits for building on it in 2006.

Town Attorney Brad March has been on the Larimer County Board of County Commissioners’ weekly agenda three times to discuss the potential tax break, and each time has postponed his appearance because he had no final agreement for the commissioners to consider. On May 15, he asked to table the item indefinitely until both the owner and the new operator had signed a contract.

March did not return calls for comment on this story.

Commission chairman Chair Lew Gaiter III said the commissioners were willing to work with the parties because of the importance of a local grocery store to Wellington, but expressed his impatience with the repeated delays.

He’s not alone.

“The town has done about all we can do, frankly, and Panhandle has already kept it open longer than they said they would,” Brinkhoff said. “If a signed contract showed up today, I’m sure we could get it done, but I can’t tell you how many times we thought we would have a lease by Friday then someone threw another wrench in the works.”