Amendments to Downtown Design Overlay ready for first reading next Glenwood Springs City Council meeting

Amendments to the Downtown Design Overlay were discussed at the City Council meeting on June 1.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent

Glenwood Springs city staff presented changes Thursday to the Downtown Design Overlay project to City Council based on public feedback.

The city was able to receive public comment by holding two public work sessions, and staff received good feedback to make the amendments, Glenwood Springs Director of Economic and Senior Development Hannah Klausman said.

The amendments included changing the boundary size of the proposed overlay, the percentage of the floor that is required to generate sales tax by retail owners, the code to define specific kinds of retail use and thresholds of application, or what would “trigger” an application with the city. 

The public who did attend the meeting was interested in adding the Glenwood Confluence area and Sixth Street to the overlay, along with adding more regulation on the types of uses. 

Members of the public also supported regulating building forms, like limiting the size of a retail space.

City staff started by presenting a change of requirement of the businesses in the overlay from any sales tax-generating business to a category requirement instead. They created four categories based on public and Council input: food and beverage establishments, retail, recreation/entertainment and personal services. 

“People want things to do,” Klausman said. “People want art classes, people want galleries, museums, music venues.”

The recreation, entertainment and indoor category included theater, escape rooms, music venues, health classes, art classes, galleries and museums. The personal services category included beauty and barber shops, shoe repair, alterations, spa/massage and personal grooming.

Then they talked about expanding the boundaries for the overlay to Sixth Street and the Glenwood Confluence. 

Councilor Jonathan Godes created a map that has an inner section that would create vitality in the downtown core, and an outer map that could expand to create more business spaces like law, accountant and real-estate offices, he said. 

The Councilors and the city staff seemed to be in favor of Godes’ new map.

Councilors Sumner Schachter and Shelley Kaup both had concern for losing housing in these areas, which caused them to make minor amendments to Godes’ proposed map to keep them residential. 

Council agreed to not have the overlay apply to parking lots and garages, along with institutions like government and nonprofits.

The threshold was mainly kept the same, causing new applications when a property within the overlay has demolition, an addition or renovation to a specific structure where the total gross floor area of the proposed addition is 25% or more than that of the total gross floor area of the existing structure before addition or renovation, according to the code wording in the City Council packet. 

Parks and institutions like government and nonprofits were exempt from the threshold. 

City Manager Beverli Marshall mentioned adding historical value as a special use to keep housing needs. So if someone wanted to demolish or renovate more than 25% of their home in that zone, they would need to go to the city. 

The percentage of the ground floor space being required to be one of the main categories was not decided, but Godes did mention that he would be OK with just 50% of the street-front space to be retail, and something like personal services or residential on the back half. 

Other Council members also seemed open to the concept. 

Mayor Ingrid Wussow agreed with Godes in wanting to perhaps change it to have at least 50% of the building’s bottom level in front retail and back can be personal services, housing or lodging. Ground floor storefronts are the main drive to keep vitality and pedestrian liveliness in the core of downtown.  

Klausman assured a member of the public that this meeting is just direction from Council and not action. Staff will come back to council with their requests for the first reading on June 15, which will allow for public comment. 

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