Pros, cons outlined for large annexation
March 17, 2014
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Consideration of a 506-acre annexation and subsequent 413-home subdivision up Four Mile Road, known as Glenwood Ridge, comes down to a question of costs versus the benefits of approving the largest development proposal the city has seen in more than a decade.
And there are some big questions around a host of issues — from traffic, street, utility, fire, police, housing costs and public school impacts, to amenities such as new ballfields, a major open space dedication and a potential boost to the local economy — as the Glenwood Springs Planning and Zoning Commission gets set to consider the request.
P&Z has scheduled a series of three public hearings to weigh the pros and cons of the proposal, beginning tonight at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall.
Additional P&Z hearing dates are set for April 8 and 22, all leading up to a recommendation to City Council. May 15 is the tentative first hearing date before council.
Glenwood Ridge involves the former Bershenyi and Martino ranches, situated on either side of Four Mile Road (Garfield County Road 117) just beyond the existing Four Mile Ranch development, about 1.5 miles southwest of the Midland Avenue/Four Mile intersection.
The property is owned by Florida-based Elk Meadows Properties LLC, which is represented by local land-use attorney Larry Green of Balcomb & Green.
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What's now Four Mile Ranch was the site of the last major annexation and development proposal to come before the city in 2002. Known as Red Feather Ridge, it was approved by City Council after a lengthy public hearing, but was ultimately rejected by city voters through a citizen initiative.
That land eventually was approved for a large-lot residential subdivision by Garfield County commissioners a few years later.
The Glenwood Ridge plan calls for a mix of 225 single-family homes, 98 townhouse units, 12 duplexes and 78 condominium units spread between three linked neighborhoods. The project is proposed to be built out over the next 20 years.
The largest neighborhood would have 218 houses situated on the east side of Four Mile Road, near the old Bershenyi farm house and distinctive barn that sits almost on top of the road on the Glenwood Springs side of the so-called "Bershenyi dip." Two smaller neighborhoods tucked into the valley west of the road would include another 195 units.
In order for the area to be annexed, a little more than two acres of city-owned land just south of the Four Mile Ranch and Glenwood Ridge properties would also need to be annexed into city limits.
perks vs. impacts
In addition to building a neighborhood park with ballfields and other amenities, the developers propose to build or fund the construction of the city's planned roundabout at the Four Mile/Midland intersection as a way of easing traffic congestion in the area.
Also proposed is the dedication of 1,140 acres of forested and sage-brush-covered land that was part of the upper Bershenyi ranch to the city for open space or a potential future recreation area with trails and other amenities.
Because that property is land-locked, with access only allowed by foot or horseback through BLM land, any expanded access would have to go through a formal environmental assessment process.
Among the questions and concerns for city officials outlined in a staff report are the anticipated costs associated with utility upgrades, including an electric substation expansion that would be needed to accommodate more than 400 new residences.
The approximately 1.5-mile stretch of what's now a county road is a big question for the city, since that section of road would likely be transferred from the county to the city if the annexation is approved.
"One of the more concerning issues about this project for the city is its potential impacts on traffic within the Four Mile corridor, on portions of Midland Avenue and at the 27th Street Bridge," according to the staff report prepared by senior city planner Gretchen Ricehill.
Added Dave Betley, assistant public works director for the city, if the lower stretch of Four Mile Road does become the city's responsibility, it should be brought up to city street standards.
"This may include additional dedications to facilitate bike and walking paths, drainage or other infrastructure needs based on detailed plans," Betley said in a separate staff memo. "These issues should be required before development."
Adding to the concern around traffic impacts in the area is the fact that there are several approved subdivisions along the Four Mile corridor that are not yet built out, Ricehill also indicated in her report.
Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson indicated in a November 2013 memo commenting on the annexation proposal that he stands opposed to any additional development on the south end of town until the proposed South Bridge route is built.
The city and county partnered to do an environmental assessment of the proposed route, which would provide a new outlet to Highway 82 south of the municipal airport. But there's no funding identified to build the estimated $35 million project.
Wilson said in his memo that all it would take is a major closure of south Midland Avenue to essentially shut off that end of Glenwood Springs, except for the Dry Park Road back toward Carbondale.
"It all sounds acceptable until you are the one at the front of the line of stopped vehicles or the one trying to direct the traffic with nowhere to send them," Wilson wrote. "'Go to Carbondale and take a right' is neither a fun message to give or receive when an accident closes Midland."
Glenwood Fire Chief Gary Tillotson also expressed concerns related to the provision of emergency services in the area, and the need for more manpower at build-out of the proposed development.
Another consideration for the city is the future requirement of deed-restricted affordable housing within the development. The city would normally require 15 percent of the units to be deed-restricted in order to maintain affordable pricing, but City Council has agreed to relax the rules until the fall of 2015 in an effort to spur more construction activity in the city.
Any phase of the subdivision approved after that time would be subject to the affordable housing standard, unless the moratorium is extended again.