Fee waivers clear way for Glenwood Green
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Developers of a low-income rental housing project at Glenwood Meadows were granted the full amount of requested fee waivers by Glenwood Springs City Council Thursday night.
Council’s 4-2 decision to waive roughly $474,000 in planning, water, sewer and school impact fees should clear the way for construction of the 60-unit Glenwood Green Apartments on Wulfsohn Road, project officials said.
The plan was given development approval by the city last month. But the issue of fee waivers, especially those related to city utilities, remained to be resolved after some council members balked at the idea.
“I’ve been a supporter of this project … but I’m not a supporter of putting the financial burden on the backs of citizens and [utility] rate payers,” Councilman Mike Gamba reiterated at Thursday’s meeting before voting against the waivers. “This project needs to stand on its own feet financially.”
Denver-based Community Housing Concepts, through its development arm, Steele Properties, obtained $11 million in low-income tax credits from the Colorado Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) to build the $14 million project.
Glenwood Green will provide low-cost rental units for individuals and families earning between 40 and 60 percent of the area median income.
Without the fee waivers, the project would have been in jeopardy, said Steele representative Jennifer Cloud at the Thursday meeting.
Cloud offered letters from CHFA, the Colorado Division of Housing and project investors indicating the lack of fee waivers from the city would trigger a review of the project’s financing.
“All of them expressed great concern for the financial impact of not having the fee waivers,” Cloud said.
Any delays could also put the project in danger of meeting a June 5 deadline to spend 10 percent of the project budget, or risk losing the tax credits, she added.
“That’s more likely to kill the project than any other factor,” Cloud said.
The city’s land-use code allows for “partial or total” fee waivers as an incentive for eligible affordable housing projects. City planners recommended approval of the waivers.
Councilman Stephen Bershenyi had previously opposed the full waiver request. But he changed his tune, especially after hearing from two Glenwood Meadows Market Street restaurant owners Thursday night. They supported any incentive to encourage housing development next to the isolated commercial area.
“That’s the one element that was missing for me through this process,” Bershenyi said of the neighborhood sentiment. “I’m firmly in favor of granting these waivers, and I think they are needed to help [the project] succeed.”
Bershenyi was joined by Mayor Matt Steckler and council members Todd Leahy and Dave Sturges in support of the waivers.
Councilman Leo McKinney sided with Gamba in opposition. Councilman Ted Edmonds recused himself from the Glenwood Green development and fee waiver decisions due to a conflict of interest.
The larger Meadows site is approved for up to 425 residential units eventually, including 120 apartments, all on the hillside south of Wulfsohn Road.
In other business at the Thursday meeting, City Council:
• Unanimously approved a recommendation to raise city water rates 4 percent this year. The rate increase is on top of a 7 percent hike last year.
Utility customers will not, however, see any increase in their wastewater (sewer) rates this year, following multiple years of double-digit increases. That’s mostly due to a $800,000 transfer from the city’s capital reserve fund to the wastewater fund to cover ongoing costs to build the new wastewater treatment plant, Glenwood Springs Public Works Director Robin Millyard said.
Without that transfer, sewer rates would have had to go up 33 percent this year, he said.
• Unanimously approved a 10-year electric power supply contract with the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN) to replace the existing contract that expires at the end of this year.
The new contract comes with a 5 percent rate increase. However, the city is still pursuing a possible 30-year deal with MEAN that would lower that rate. A sticking point in the longer-term deal is a 2 percent limit on local power generation. The city is seeking greater flexibility to generate some of its own power in the future, if a longer-term deal is reached.
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