City staff recommends denial of Glenwood Ridge development
June 1, 2014
A plan to annex 506 acres of ranch land along Four Mile Road into the city of Glenwood Springs for a 413-home development has too many unanswered questions and comes at too much cost to the city to provide services for the new neighborhood, according to a city staff report recommending denial of the project.
"Staff agrees that Glenwood Springs needs for-sale and rental housing and especially housing that is affordable to Glenwood's workforce," according to a 37-page staff report sent out Friday outlining the reasons for recommending that the Glenwood Ridge project be denied.
The land owner, Elk Meadows Properties, is also correct in noting that the former Bershenyi and Martino ranches are within the city's urban growth boundary, as established in the 2011 Glenwood Springs Comprehensive Plan, the report acknowledges.
"However, because of the number of significant unresolved issues, it is impossible for staff to support this project," staff concludes in the report. "There are far too many components of the proposal that do not conform to municipal code requirements or to goals expressed in the comprehensive plan."
Among them are a request by the developer to be exempt from the city's affordable housing rules, lack of a public transit plan to service the extended area of the city, and the overall costs to the city to provide services.
The Glenwood Springs Planning and Zoning Commission is set to continue its public hearing on the annexation and development proposal at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
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P&Z will hear the developer's response to questions and concerns raised in the staff report. Additional public comments will also be taken.
The commission could get to a recommendation of its own Tuesday, but has the option of continuing the hearing until Wednesday for further discussion and a formal recommendation to the Glenwood Springs City Council.
Council is slated to begin hearing the proposal on July 17.
Elk Meadows proposes to turn the former ranch properties, situated on either side of Four Mile Road just beyond the existing Four Mile Ranch large-lot residential subdivision, into a mix of 225 single-family detached houses and 188 multi-family units, including duplexes, townhouses and condominiums.
The developed subdivision would cover about 13 percent of the larger 506-acre site, leaving the remainder as undeveloped open space or parks, including a 16.7-acre city ball park complex.
The developer would also dedicate 1,140 acres in what's known as the upper Bershenyi Ranch to the city for open space or a primitive mountain park.
According to the city staff analysis, though, while the development proposal has its benefits and would bring new revenues and a mix of mid-level housing into the city, there's still a large gap between those benefits and the costs to support the project.
That includes extra police and fire services, street upgrades, parks and trails maintenance and other services necessary to support the new development, the report notes.
"There are concerns about the city's financial ability to support this development in a fiscally responsible manner that does not burden the current residents of Glenwood Springs," staff concludes in its report.
The out-of-state owner/developer, led by owner's representative Gary Menzel of Florida, made a case for the city to approve the project in a 16-page "white paper" submitted to the planning commission in April. The Post Independent featured the developer's perspective in an April 23 article.
It points to a 2005 housing study that suggested the city would need to add about 2,885 additional houses before 2015 to keep up with demand.
Even after the national recession and a resulting downturn in the local real estate market, the demand for moderately priced houses, in the range of $225,000 to $600,000, is returning, proponents argue.
"We are a vibrant center of tourism, government and commerce finally seeing the signs of a reinvigorated economy and a dearth of housing inventory to maintain this positive momentum," the white paper contends. "Now is the time to encourage our recovery with quality, well-considered plans and projects that do not waste available opportunities with large lot sprawl."
Chief among the concerns for city staff, however, is the developer's request to be exempt from the city's affordable housing rules through build-out of the Glenwood Ridge project.
The city's requirement that 15 percent of residential units be offered as deed-restricted units to qualified buyers in specific income brackets is currently under suspension in an effort to spur new construction. However, Glenwood Ridge is asking to be exempt even if the rules are reinstated during the 15- to 20-year build-out of the project.
Proponents argue that by building modest-sized houses on smaller lots in a medium- to high-density development, Glenwood Ridge inherently will provide reasonably priced housing.
"Staff takes issue with the notion that housing mix, density and lot size automatically translates to affordable housing prices," the planning staff report states. "Based on recent past experience, staff believes that the private market on its own will not create affordable housing units."
Another major concern noted in the staff recommendation is that, without a public transit system and bicycle paths connecting Glenwood Ridge to the South Glenwood area and amenities such as schools and shopping, it will be too much of a "car-dependent community."