Garfield County grounds Flying M housing development proposal
Concerns about density and urban sprawl outweigh housing need.
Fear of urban sprawl outweighed housing needs as Garfield County commissioners denied a proposal to build tiny homes, townhouses, senior care facilities and a small commercial center near Riverview School on the Roaring Fork River south of Glenwood Springs.
In a split decision Monday following the third public hearing, the commissioners voted down the Flying M Ranch proposal. Residents from neighboring Westbank, which includes Ironbridge Golf Course, almost unanimously opposed the project.
Commissioners Mike Samson and John Martin voted to deny the proposed development, saying it was too dense and urban, but expressed a desire for the developers to come back with a better plan.
“This is an excellent plan,” countered Commissioner Tom Jankovsky.
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“I think we send a message to the development community that there is no development in the Roaring Fork Valley for unincorporated Garfield County,” Jankovsky said.
Jankovsky, who lives in Westbank and is the only commissioner who would have a view of the development from his property, was the only commissioner to vote for the project.
“You all heard the housing needs analysis recently; people wringing their hands as to what to do, and here we are presenting with something that can be got underway in the next few weeks for part of that problem,” developer Robert Macgregor said before the vote.
Macgregor, who was a major player in the Glenwood Meadows project, also said approving the project would be a signal to developers that if they play within the county’s zoning rules, they have a hope of prevailing with innovative projects.
For Samson, a big concern about the Flying M development was the traffic impacts at an already difficult intersection of Highway 82 and County Road 154. Both Samson and Martin objected to the density of the proposed 228 housing units on 33 acres.
Putting so many people into that small section of land would have consequences later on, Martin said, especially if the school district wants to build a high school north of the Riverview property.
If the development is too dense, “it’s going to be a town, and I don’t want a town there,” Martin said.
“That piece of property is going to be developed, (but) I don’t think this is the right fit for it,” Samson said. “There are certain things I definitely would like you to keep, but I don’t like the concept of just stacking people in there.”
Much of the Westbank community was opposed to the Flying M proposal.
“Given the nature and extent of this application, it was the unanimous consensus of the Westbank board and the 50 or so people that had written letters, that his application … should be denied, inviting the applicant to come back with another one,” said Steve Beattie, representing the homeowners’ association.
Westbank neighborhood members objected to the project’s density, expressed concern about compatibility with the surrounding area and said the impacts of the project were uncertain.
At times, the public discussion got personal, with one Westbank resident saying he was “puzzled” how Jankovsky could support a project that so many of his neighbors and constituents opposed.
“I have to say, I voted for you for several reasons … one is I know your cousin better than I know you, and he said you’re a good guy,” said John Haines.
Prompted by another comment from a neighbor at the hearing, Jankovsky said he had no financial stake in Flying M. County legal staff said the risk of financial gain or loss for Jankovsky did not merit a conflict of interest review.
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Bridges High School graduates took part in a special ritual for their ceremony, each placing a rock in the center of the ring as their names and a few words were read.