Glenwood Springs City Council begins its review of land-use process
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Increasing the time it takes to get a land-use application through the city of Glenwood Springs’ planning review process may be the tradeoff for lowering some of the upfront costs for developers.
Among the recent goals laid out by City Council for the next two years is to explore ways to make the city’s land-use review process less onerous, in an effort to spur economic development.
“My goal in wanting to discuss this is that … I view the applicant as a customer of this group [city council]; that’s how I see that person,” Glenwood Springs City Councilman Todd Leahy said during a discussion at the Nov. 17 council meeting about ways to streamline the development review process.
“We need to look at how we can treat that person as fairly and equitably as possible, and reduce the risk and subjectivity of that process,” he said.
Council agreed to host a forum in the near future, inviting developers and others to weigh in on the issue.
The goal isn’t to rewrite the city’s land-use codes, Leahy said.
“The end product that shows up in Glenwood Springs as a result of our codes is a quality product that people like,” he said.
One option may be to reduce the amount of technical information required upfront, which would reduce the cost for developers to submit an application.
“That keeps from front-loading the cost,” Councilman Stephen Bershenyi agreed. “But there are conversations we eventually have to have with the developer. We can’t protect ourselves without a more lengthy review.”
Leahy agreed that the idea isn’t necessarily to speed up the process, but to spread that cost out.
“If anything, we might take more time, but relieve some of the [monetary] risk on the developer,” he said.
Glenwood Springs Community Development Director Andrew McGregor offered some other suggestions, such as coming up with standardized engineering regulations, allowing for more administrative approvals of certain types of variances and smaller applications, and getting rid of the conceptual review for major developments.
Feedback is mixed on the value of the conceptual review, McGregor said. Some developers would prefer to skip the step, while others like receiving comments from City Council on a development concept before a formal application is submitted.
Several council members also said they like having that extra level of review as a way to get some of the questions and concerns out on the table early in the process.
The city could also update its list of uses that are allowed by right and those that require a special review, McGregor said.
But the city’s land-use codes in general are pretty good, he offered.
“We have had some notoriously bad cases,” McGregor said. “Some parts are difficult to administer, but it wouldn’t be productive to throw it all out.
“Clearly, there are ways to improve the process,” he said.
Code variances, from building setbacks and heights to hillside development and historic preservation, can be the bigger challenges, McGregor said.
“This is a difficult community to build in, because there is not a lot of space left where you can build easily,” he said. “There are a lot of variances related to those spatial constraints.”
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