Ballot Question B to finalize 480 Donegan annex or repeal
Voters will decide the fate of a potential property annexation for residential development at 480 Donegan during the May 3 special election.
Although Glenwood Springs City Council voted in November to annex nearly 16 acres in West Glenwood for residential development, opponents successfully submitted a referendum in 2021 to repeal the annexation.
Once the referendum was verified by the city clerk, City Council was faced with two options: Repeal the annexation, or let Glenwood Springs voters decide the matter. Council members chose the latter, leading to the addition of Question B on the May 3 ballot.
Mail-in ballots were sent out by the city April 4, and completed ballots must be delivered to the Garfield County Courthouse, 109 Eighth St., or City Hall, 101 W. Eighth St., by 7 p.m. May 3.
The potential 480 Donegan developers, R2 Partners, began hosting public meetings with stakeholders and nearby residents in June 2020.
In 2021, the developers began the annexation application process, working with city staff, before eventually presenting their plans to the Planning and Zoning Commission in March, April and May.
Around the same time, a group of mostly West Glenwood residents, the majority of whom lived outside city limits and in direct proximity to the development proposal, loosely organized opposition through a public Facebook group originally named the West Glenwood Pasture Group.
Some of the members participated in R2 Partner’s public engagement process from the outset, but felt their concerns were not being addressed — chief among them, the development’s potential impact on evacuation routes in the face of wildfires and other natural disasters.
Numerous members of the opposition group attended the commission meetings, speaking publicly about their concerns should the land be developed.
Representatives of the Diemoz family, who own the property, also spoke to the commission, informing commissioners the land was purchased in 1960 as an investment property. Despite the desires of the property’s neighbors for the area to remain undeveloped pasture, the Diemoz’s representatives stated the property would be developed whether or not it was annexed.
After three meetings, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to deny recommending the annexation.
Acknowledging the City Council as the final deciding body on the decision, commissioners advised council to request concessions if they decided to move forward with the annexation.
Some of the recommended concessions included: reducing the proposed project density of more than 400 apartment units, not counting on-street parking toward municipal development parking requirements, a need for owner-occupied housing, more inclusionary housing than minimum required, a need for an evacuation study, a need for a fire station in West Glenwood, the possibility of redeveloping this property and the Glenwood Springs Mall simultaneously and creating parkland within the development rather than allowing the developer to pay parkland fees.
In July, R2 Partners presented its annexation application to City Council. Between July and November, City Council worked with R2, revising the proposed development plan from a series of apartment complexes to a neighborhood with 40 for-sale townhomes, about 230 apartments, an acre of land to be donated for a new fire station, more than an acre dedicated to publicly accessible parkland, $100,000 to be donated to the city for fire evacuation planning, agreements with the mall property owners for a potential future development and an offer to dedicate 20% of the apartments to affordable housing requirements set forth by the city after the annexation application was submitted — meaning the developers were not legally obligated to include affordable housing allotments in their site plans.
Throughout City Council’s process of reviewing the annexation, members of the then-West Glenwood Pasture Group attended meetings en masse, voicing opposition to the development, and at times, members of the public opposed to the project resorted to shouting threats at members of City Council if they approved the annexation.
City Council approved the annexation with a 4-3 vote, which included an increase in the allowable residential units from about 270 to 300.
Following the council’s annexation approval, the West Glenwood Pasture Group made its Facebook group private, removing members of City Council and select media organizations in the process, and rebranded the group as the Glenwood Springs Citizens for Sensible Development (GSCSD).
Members of GSCSD then successfully secured more than triple the signatures needed from voters within Glenwood Springs city limits for a referendum to repeal the annex.
The grassroots organization formed a campaign based on opposition to large residential developments that do not fit within Glenwood Springs’ comprehensive plan goals of maintaining a small-town feel.
While similar-sized developments have appeared before council since GSCSD was rebranded, the group has not voiced opposition or support for any development other than 480 Donegan during City Council meetings.
Yes or No
Ballot Question B asks Glenwood Springs voters whether or not they support repealing the annexation.
A yes vote means the voter supports repealing the annexation, preventing R2 Partners from moving forward with its residential development plans.
A no vote means the voter supports annexing the property, which could allow the developer to build residential units, following additional review and permitting processes by the city.
The Diemoz family has repeatedly stated they intend to develop the property, regardless of whether it is annexed. The family acquired permits for a commercial development at 480 Donegan in the 1970s, which has been confirmed to still be valid by Garfield County officials.
The commercial development plans do not include any of the concessions R2 Partners offered the city in return for annexation approval.
The Post Independent queried representatives from both sides of the annex about their plans, should they lose the election.
R2 Partners spokesperson Kathleen Wanatowicz responded:
“Development of the Donegan parcel, which is private property, will proceed regardless of how the May 3 election turns out. Critically, what the vote will determine is how the development moves forward: If the NO on B vote prevails and annexation moves forward into Glenwood Springs for a residential neighborhood with affordable housing and a new park and fire station, residents will have many opportunities for input during the major site plan review process. The other choice, voting yes to block annexation, will keep the parcel in Garfield County and the already approved commercial park with none of the above community benefits. There is no third option.”
GSCSD member Laurie Raymond responded:
“That’s easy: the same as we’ll do if the repeal is successful. We’ll take what we’ve learned from this campaign, joining with others to advocate for truly sensible development. We’ll elect representatives with a broader, more enlightened view of what is good for Glenwood Springs and the Roaring Fork Valley. We’ll continue working to change the Comprehensive Plan and Municipal Codes, to embody environmental, economic and political health in our laws and practices.
“Because we live here, we want a city government committed to putting the health, safety and prosperity of its residents before powerful financial interests.
“We want equitable rules that prioritize development projects appropriate in scale and character to their intended neighborhoods, that do not create adverse impacts on current residents, and that require the remediation of existing hazards before considering actions likely to worsen them.
“The memory of this cherished green space would inspire each of us to greater engagement and vigilance, and we’d move forward knowing we fought hard for the people of Glenwood Springs.”
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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