Affordable housing complex proposed for downtown Rifle runs into safety concerns
Fire and police officials are concerned that building a 50-unit affordable housing complex in downtown Rifle could increase traffic and safety issues.
Rifle Police Chief Debra Funston told City Council on March 16 that the influx of an estimated 125 residents would cause an increase of 175 calls for service per year.
The police department also anticipates at least 100 more vehicles frequenting the area with the increase in residents. Funston worried this could be a problem, since there’s just 81 parking spaces planned for the complex.
Though not originally proposed, the developer could build an underground parking garage for the 81 spaces.
“That area is already extremely congested,” Funston said. “You have Wendy’s restaurant to the south. You have City Hall across the street.”
In January, Evergreen Real Estate Group proposed building the $20.34 million complex at Second Street and Railroad Avenue. The Chicago-based firm wants to build a four-story structure with 1,500 square feet of commercial space at the ground level.
Many of the units will be rented out at less than $1,000 per month.
Funston also questioned access to residential units in case of any emergencies.
“I don’t know if they’re accessed through a parking garage, or if there’s an exterior access that emergency personnel can access these residential units from the outside,” she said.
On March 2, the city approved a letter supporting the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority for tax purposes. That vote came in at 6-1, with council member Brian Condie opposing the letter due to his concerns over safety.
Evergreen is also asking the city to chip in $600,000 for the project.
Meanwhile, City Council requested information over the potential impact the complex could pose on public safety services.
Funston also joined Colorado River Fire Rescue Chief Lief Sackett and Fire Marshal Orrin Moon in listing off potential safety issues to Rifle City Council during the March 16 meeting.
Moon said the potential parking situation in the structure could also limit access for emergency services vehicles.
“More than likely we’re going to have Railroad (Avenue) blocked,” he said. “And we’re going to have West Avenue blocked, because there’s very little access from the alley.”
Sackett also echoed Funston’s concerns over how many more calls emergency services are estimated to field if more people move to the downtown area.
He said, statistically, ambulances alone would likely be called to the complex at least nine times per year.
Rifle City Council member Clint Hostettler, however, asked why there wouldn’t be enough emergency access points on the proposed complex.
“People build four-story buildings all the time, everywhere,” Hostettler said. “So I’m wondering if there’s something specific about this building you don’t like.”
Funston said it’s more difficult to gain access to residents through a parking garage in case of an emergency.
“It seems like a very great plan for what we’re trying to do,” Funston said. “I think that the location isn’t the best.”
Rifle City Planning Director Patrick Waller said Evergreen has yet to submit an application to build. Once a site plan application is submitted, the project will go under building permit review by the city’s planning and zoning commission.
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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