Postal operation complaints lead to downtown Glenwood Springs rezoning
November 13, 2013
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Bob Gish and his wife, Mary, invested in what they planned to be their retirement home in the 800 block of Pitkin Avenue on the western fringe of downtown Glenwood earlier this year.
After moving in this past July, though, they soon realized that what appeared to be a fairly quiet residential neighborhood was anything but during the busy nighttime hours at the U.S. Post Office located across the street.
"It was the perfect location, and totally met our needs as senior citizens. But what happens there at night is unbelievable," Bob Gish said of the regular mail distribution deliveries and semi-trucks in and out of the postal facility throughout the night and early in the morning.
"We can't open our windows in the summer time, and we're losing sleep every night," he said. "I'm not saying it's unlivable, but if nothing changes we'll have no choice but to do something different."
The first step for the Gishes and several of their neighbors on the west side of the 800 block of Pitkin was to earn the approval of Glenwood Springs City Council last week to rezone their one-block area from multi-family residential to commercial.
That will at least protect their investments, he said, and give those who want to sell for commercial purposes or rent their places for commercial uses an option.
Another property owner in that block, Melanie Rossow, said at the Nov. 7 council meeting that she has lost tenants in her residential apartment building because of the noise, and would like to consider converting it to commercial office space instead.
However, Barbara Orcutt, who owns a home in the 900 block of Pitkin that's on the National Historic Register, opposed the rezoning.
"It's not really a zoning issue, it's a noise issue," she said. "We have a lot of historic homes in that neighborhood, and once that block goes commercial it will destroy that buffer zone."
Council sided with the property owners in the 800 block, voting unanimously to grant the rezoning request.
"It's not a hard decision for me," Councilman Matt Steckler said. "That block has changed a lot, and we have made some decisions here to help move that along."
The city is moving forward with a plan to extend Eighth Street beyond the point where it dead-ends west of Pitkin to connect with Midland Avenue, and is also revisiting its confluence redevelopment plan, which could greatly impact the neighborhood as well.
Property owners in that block may also petition the city to be annexed into the downtown-area General Improvements District. Doing so would relax on-site parking requirements should any of them decide to redevelop for commercial purposes, in exchange for paying into a special tax fund for off-site public improvements including parking.
Gish said he still hopes he and his neighbors, perhaps with a little pressure from the city, will be able to work things out with the U.S. Postal Service to either reduce nighttime activity at the facility or at least somehow control the noise.
"The sights and sounds of a post office are wonderful during the day, but not at night," he said.
John Hite, manager of consumer relations for the U.S. Postal Service in the Colorado and Wyoming region, responded in a letter to Gish, which was also copied to the city, explaining that the nighttime operations are necessary and aren't likely to change.
Regional distribution trucks pass through the facility en route from Denver or Grand Junction in either direction at 10:30 p.m. and at 12:30, 1:30, 4:30 and 6 a.m., Hite said. Aspen and Vail trucks also dispatch at 5 and 6:30 a.m., he said.
"The early morning trucks bring mail for Glenwood Springs and other nearby communities so that it can be distributed for delivery later that day," Hite said in the letter. "Due to the postal needs of your town and the surrounding area, we are unable to change our operating window."
He added that the local postmaster has spoken with the truck drivers in an effort to curb the nighttime noise.
"We will encourage them to arrive at the Post Office, load or unload their mail and depart with minimal idling or other noise," Hite said.