Unsatisfied with a developer’s limited plans to improve a dangerous Highway 82 intersection and deal with parking and other on-site impacts associated with 57 apartment units, Garfield County commissioners on Monday rejected a plan to turn the old Buffalo Valley restaurant site into an apartment complex.
“I’m the commissioner who is probably most vocal about economic development, and construction is a part of that,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said.
“But I do have concerns about this intersection,” he said of the busy area about a mile south of Glenwood Springs where County Road 154 (old 82) meets Highway 82 at a narrow angle, and is complicated by several private driveways, including the Buffalo Valley entrance, and the Rio Grande Trail crossing.
A traffic signal controls the intersection, but it is lacking an acceleration lane for vehicles heading east, or upvalley, on 82.
A consultant working for developer Norman Bacheldor suggested prohibiting right turns onto the highway on a red light.
“The only way I could move forward with this is to have an acceleration lane,” Jankovsky said. “But that probably kills the project [because of the cost].”
He and commissioners John Martin and Mike Samson also agreed that a plan to increase parking from 100 to 117 spaces is still inadequate, and that there is not enough open space included with the plan. The county’s parking code would require an additional 26 parking spaces.
Martin acknowledged that it’s hard to turn down a project that could create construction jobs and fulfill a need for rental housing in the county.
“But the impacts are extensive,” he said. “I would like to see some development on that piece of property, and I don’t like to see it stay vacant. But we have to pay attention to … the overall safety of our traveling public.”
The commissioners voted 3-0 to deny the project.
Bacheldor, who acquired the property through a foreclosure proceeding last May, had proposed to replace the old restaurant building and 14 motel units on the 2.2-acre site with two three-story apartment buildings with a mix of one- and two-bedroom rental units.
Another strike against the proposal came from the Colorado Department of Transportation, which indicated the estimated increase in traffic from the apartments would trigger the need for a new highway access permit.
Bacheldor disputed that assessment, saying the apartments would generate 40 percent less traffic than if a restaurant reopened on the site. He said CDOT based the traffic increase on the current level of traffic with nothing but the motel units operating on a short-term rental basis.
“I’ve had probably 30 calls from people wanting to open a restaurant there,” he said. “But this is a great spot for apartments, and we need more rentals.”
Some residents of the area had also objected to the redevelopment proposal for many of the same reasons cited by county planning staff and the county commissioners.
Bacheldor said after the meeting that he was disappointed by the decision, and that he would have to reassess how to proceed on a new use for the property.
“Frankly, I’m surprised they denied it,” he said. “When you look at other apartment buildings in Glenwood or elsewhere in the county, our parking plan wasn’t any less.
“I look at it, and I just don’t understand how this is not a better use,” Bacheldor said.
The Buffalo Valley restaurant operated for many years at the site until the mid-2000s, and included the addition of the motel units several years before it closed.
A pizza restaurant and sports bar operated there for a brief time before closing in 2010, when the property fell into foreclosure.