Edmonds: Glenwood Springs codes not business friendly
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Gran Farnum calls his experience a few years ago to obtain permission from the city to open his new printing shop on Grand Avenue “the worst business experience I’ve ever had.”
“It seemed to be kind of a moving target,” Farnum said of a 2006 approval process he claims ended up costing him around $100,000 in city permitting, engineering and legal fees.
Specifically, he said rules related to an engineering plan for site drainage, and a landscaping and sidewalk configuration in front of the building became onerous, as his plans worked their way through Glenwood Springs city staff review, the Planning and Zoning Commission and then City Council.
“We got through it,” Farnum said. “But I can see how new businesses coming in here would want to go somewhere else after dealing with that.”
Farnum’s case has often been cited by Ted Edmonds, the challenger for the Glenwood Springs Ward 1 City Council seat, in his campaign claims that the city’s building and development review process creates an unfriendly environment for businesses.
Edmonds is facing incumbent City Councilman Russ Arensman in the city’s mail ballot election for the Ward 1 seat, which is ongoing through election day, April 5.
“I’ve been told by more than one person that we need to look at these building codes and regulations,” Edmonds said. “There is a perception that they are convoluted, complicated and long. City Council should figure out how to take a look to see if they can be simplified.
“It’s reasonable to have zoning and regulations, but some of those may have gotten out of hand,” he said.
Farnum’s situation pre-dated Arensman’s time on City Council, so he couldn’t respond to that case in particular. He is running for re-election to a second four-year term.
In general, Arensman said City Council is usually open to reviewing any rules that are creating unnecessary obstacles.
“If there’s a way we can streamline things and make things easier for the user, I’m all for it,” he said. “But it is typically harder to unmake a regulatory structure than to make one.”
The city also has to balance the interests of land-use and development applicants with those of the general public and neighboring property owners, Arensman said.
“We can’t take every single project and welcome it completely,” he said during a March 9 candidates’ forum. “We have to address the potential impacts on residents and other businesses.
“It is a complicated process, but it’s a process that works,” Arensman said.
Arensman points to recent efforts to overhaul the residential and commercial design standards, which he said were an attempt to make the process more accessible and user-friendly.
“A lot of it was about raising the bar, and creating a higher-quality, more attractive standard of development,” he said.
He also said he takes offense at being labeled as anti-business.
“The city has done a lot, and continues to do a lot for the business community,” Arensman said, pointing to a recent ordinance establishing a preference policy for local firms in city purchasing and contracting.
“When the business community comes to us asking for assistance, I think we’ve been pretty diligent in trying to help them,” he said.
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