Glenwood faces ‘perfect storm’
A 120-unit rental housing development that won financial concessions from Glenwood Springs City Council Thursday night should help head off “a perfect storm” involving a severe worker shortage in the community, a developer says.But in agreeing to help, council also had to deal with contentions that an associated commercial development failed to live up to its promise of providing housing for some of its workers.Council decided late Thursday night to provide some financial concessions for the affordable housing project at Glenwood Meadows, although less than developers had asked. Still, Robert Macgregor of Glenwood Meadows LLC, which owns the property in question, indicated after the decision that developers are excited by the support they received and planned to do their best to make the project work.The $28 million project would be income restricted for 40 years, with some units limited to rental applicants making less than 40 percent of the median income in Garfield County, others being restricted to those making below 60 percent, and the rest set aside for those making below 80 percent. Once in an apartment, residents could remain there even if their incomes rise above those thresholds.Developers won approval for the project last year but asked the city and county for financial help this year, citing skyrocketing construction costs. Garfield County contributed $1.5 million in cash.The city was being asked to waive more than $900,000 in development and impact fees, loan more than $200,000 and delay a requirement that the developers build a one-acre park, which is estimated to cost $350,000.Council instead agreed to defer payment on about $800,000 in fees. They would have to be paid back when the property is sold or after 40 years, at an increased amount projected to be calculated at a 5 percent annual compound interest rate. Council turned down a request to waive fees for emergency services, but agreed to the park delay.In arguing for concessions, developer Arny Porath cited the area’s worker and housing shortages, which he said are reflected in a big jump in help wanted ads in the Post Independent and a drop in housing rental ads.”We have the makings of a perfect storm in this community,” he said.He said he contacted several businesses at Glenwood Meadows, a 400,000-square-foot commercial development that opened last year and is home to retailers such as Lowe’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Target.”In every case the managers reported severe shortages in full- and part-time employees,” he said.But council member Dave Johnson and Greg Jeung, a former council member, weren’t entirely sympathetic. They noted that the Glenwood Meadows commercial component originally was going to include housing above some retail spaces, but developers eliminated the housing. Also, nearby Glenwood Meadows land that had been intended for a hotel or resort use instead is going to be developed for retail use, “which is going to exacerbate the problem of not having enough housing for employees,” Jeung said.But Mayor Bruce Christensen said developers are trying to do something now about housing through the rental project.”It seems like the opportunity is not coming that often to solve the problem on the scale that we could be looking at,” he said.Council member Joe O’Donnell considers Thursday’s decision one of the most difficult to face council since he began serving on it three years ago. He and Larry Beckwith voted against the approved concessions, with O’Donnell saying council needed an expert evaluation of the developers’ financial numbers before it could make an informed decision. The two had earlier voted in the council majority to defer fees for 15 years, but Porath said developers wouldn’t be able to pay them back in that amount of time.Council members heard from some city residents concerned about what profit developers would make on a taxpayer-subsidized project. Porath said he had no specific expectations for what developers might make, and Beckwith, O’Donnell and Christensen said it wasn’t an issue for them that the project would make a profit. Macgregor said he has heard about how profitable it supposedly would be.”I assure you, if it was, we would have had it built by now,” he said.Beckwith previously had asked developers to let the city gain some financial ownership in the project in return for concessions. Macgregor said that idea interested him but he later was advised it would be tricky and have legal pitfalls. That didn’t satisfy O’Donnell, who noted that the Garfield County Housing Authority would own a percentage of the project.”If you can cut them in why can’t you cut in us?” O’Donnell said.Council member Dave Merritt voiced the most support for providing concessions, noting that the city was gaining $3 million in sales tax revenues this year due to the work being done by the employees of the new Glenwood Meadows stores.”We need to recognize that those people need a place in this community,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: email@example.com
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