GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - A plan to build 38 duplex units at the top of a hillside parcel in south Glenwood, plus 17 multi-family units on the lower section along Airport Road, won approval from Glenwood Springs City Council Thursday.
Council voted 5-2 to approve a zoning change, comprehensive plan amendment and major subdivision permit for developer Peter Waller's Silver Sage Preserve project.
Developers will have five years to begin construction on the 42-acre site, located near the intersection of Airport Road and Four Mile Road, although an extension could be granted after that time.
Waller had asked for an outright 10-year vesting period for the development to proceed, but council settled on the shorter term.
Councilman Stephen Bershenyi wanted to stick with the usual three-year vesting period. He voted with Councilman Leo McKinney against the development plans.
"We do have a policy of granting these extensions when they are requested," Bershenyi said. "I can't remember one where they've been refused."
Councilman Todd Leahy said the lingering soft real estate market is justification for granting the longer period of time for the developer to commence construction on the project.
"If we were in regular economic times, I can appreciate that three years is plenty of time," Leahy said. "But these aren't normal times.
"If we want anything to happen in this town that supports any type of new construction, this is the time to bend on this," he said.
McKinney said he couldn't support further development in the south Glenwood area until the primary access to the area, Midland Avenue and the 27th Street bridge, can be improved.
"Any new development there is premature given the condition of that road," he said.
Councilman Dave Sturges said the likelihood that the Silver Sage project will not proceed anytime soon should give the city time to address Midland Avenue concerns.
"This is a model for the type of housing we need, and it needs to be supported by the city," Sturges said. "This is an extension of the city that has been envisioned for some time."
City council did not, however, grant a requested permanent waiver of the city's affordable housing rules for the Silver Sage development.
The city has currently suspended its affordable housing rules, which require that 15 percent of units in new residential developments be deed-restricted with price controls and income limits for buyers. The suspension could be lifted later this year.
In the meantime, council plans to have a broader discussion about the city's affordable housing program, and some modifications could be made.
Neighboring residents, including those in the nearby Four Mile Ranch subdivision, had expressed concerns about traffic, parking, density, loss of wildlife habitat and other impacts from the Silver Sage project.
The development plan calls for the 38 duplex units to be clustered at the far western portion of the property. The steep hillside in between there and Airport Road is to be preserved as open space, except for a pedestrian and bike trail connecting the two residential neighborhoods.
Waller also agreed to donate the remaining historic coal coking ovens, which sit on part of the property along Airport Road, to the Frontier Historical Society.
Also Thursday, city council approved plans by the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge and Pool to make improvements on private and public property along the eastern section of Sixth Street.
In addition to a new canopy entryway at the lodge, the Hot Springs Lodge was also granted approval to build a directional archway over Sixth Street near the lodge.
Hot Springs General Manager Kjell Mitchell said the archway would help direct people coming from the west to the hot springs properties, as well as the Yampa Vapor Caves, the Glenwood arts center and other attractions in the vicinity.
However, owners of the adjacent Hotel Colorado objected to the location of the archway and the proposed wording, saying it wouldn't do enough to call attention to the historic hotel.
"It's a good idea, but our concern is the location and the content," said hotel attorney David McConaughy during the Thursday council hearing.
He asked that a decision on the archway be continued to a future meeting, so hotel and Hot Springs representatives could discuss a joint project and possible cost-sharing.
Council ultimately approved both the lodge canopy and the archway plans on respective 7-0 votes. Council members did say they would like the two entities to work together to come to some agreement on how the archway could benefit all of the commercial entities in the area.