GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A plan to redevelop the former Buffalo Valley Restaurant site into a 57-unit apartment complex got sidetracked Tuesday over concerns by Garfield County commissioners about safety at an already dangerous highway intersection.
“That is a dangerous intersection, as I personally have stated in many discussions,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said of the awkward intersection of County Road 154 at Highway 82, which is often informally referred to as the “Buffalo Valley turnoff.”
Several private driveways accessing the county road at that point, in addition to the Rio Grande Trail crossing, short turn signals onto and off of Highway 82, and the lack of acceleration lanes on the highway create multiple safety hazards, Jankovsky said.
A handful of neighbors who are opposed to the plan expressed similar concerns. They also had reservations about the adequacy of developer Norm Bacheldor’s proposal for just 100 on-site parking spaces, and questioned the number of apartments proposed for the 2.2-acre site.
With proper safety improvements, however, Jankovsky said it makes sense to redevelop the property, and rental housing “provides a need within our community.”
A public hearing to consider the proposal was continued until April 14 to allow Bacheldor to address some of the parking and design concerns, and to gather information from the Colorado Department of Transportation about potential safety upgrades at the highway.
Bacheldor, who acquired the property through a foreclosure proceeding last May, proposes to replace the old restaurant building and 14 motel units with two, three-story apartment buildings with a mix of one- and two-bedroom rental units.
The restaurant operated for many years as the Buffalo Valley Inn, including the addition of the motel units in the 1990s, partly to accommodate the regular schedule of touring bands that played the venue.
In 1993, then-owner Kurt Wigger paid for a connection to city of Glenwood Springs water and sewer service in order to serve the needs of the motel units. The area was envisioned for eventual annexation into the city, and is included in the city’s current urban growth boundary.
After Wigger sold the property, it operated briefly as a pizza place and sports bar before closing in 2010 and falling into foreclosure.
Bacheldor said after Tuesday’s hearing with the county commissioners that the motel units are currently rented on a weekly basis.
A traffic study prepared for the redevelopment application suggests the apartments would generate less peak-hour traffic than the existing motel units and the restaurant, should it be reopened, according to project engineer Chris Hale.
Initial plans were to tear down the existing buildings and begin construction on the new apartments by June, Bacheldor said. With the commissioners’ postponing their decision until at least April, that time frame will have to be modified, he said.
“We would like to break ground this year, but we do have to be sensitive to construction seasons,” Bacheldor said.
Among the main concerns for neighbors is a proposal to reduce the number of required on-site parking spaces from 142, as called for in the county’s land-use code, to 100 spaces.
“To ask for a 30 percent reduction in parking is just unbelievable,” said John Taufer, who lives nearby on County Road 154. “I don’t know where people are going to park with that many units. I see it as a real problem in the future.”
Neighbor Chris Janusz, who lives across Highway 82 from the Buffalo Valley site, said the intersection is the primary concern.
“We’re talking about one of the most dangerous intersections in all of Garfield County,” he said.
If on-site parking is inadequate, Janusz said he also would be concerned about people parking along the county road, which is too narrow.
“I’m having a hard time supporting this … because it’s just such a lousy location,” Janusz said.
Commissioner Mike Samson also objected to the request for less parking than would normally be required.
“If you have 57 units and only 100 parking spaces, we’re going to have a real disaster there,” Samson said.
He suggested reducing the number of units to adjust the need for parking, but acknowledged that the developer also needs to maintain a profit margin on the project.
Commissioner John Martin suggested that the developer put a limit on the number of vehicles tenants can have as another way to address the concern.
“That is a business approach you can take,” he said.