Glenwood Springs City Council says county should deny Sunlight development application |

Glenwood Springs City Council says county should deny Sunlight development application

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” The City Council said it will recommend that Garfield County deny a development application for Sunlight Mountain Resort due to the developers’ poor examination of impacts like traffic and housing.

“My motion will be that the city of Glenwood Springs strongly recommends that Garfield County not approve the development as submitted in this PUD [planned unit development] and all of these documents based on inadequacies of treatment of traffic, housing, public safety and other impacts,” said Councilor Dave Sturges.

The motion passed unanimously. But pretty much every councilor said they want to see the project succeed and they’re loyal to Sunlight since they’ve been longtime skiers and their kids grew up skiing the resort. The City Council has no decision-making authority over the plans but will send its comments to the county. The county’s Planning and Zoning Commission will hear the plans on Sept. 24.

Plans for development include ski area enhancements like new lifts, new terrain, a mountaintop restaurant, increased snowmaking, more lodging, employee housing and commercial development. Plans include three small mixed-use villages to be connected by gondola to the base of the ski area. There would be 830 total residential units with about 50 designated as employee housing. About 530 units would be in the base village.

The sale of the resort to a Florida-based company called Exquisite Development is contingent on county approvals. Development could help revitalize the resort that’s experienced a decline in skier-days since the late 1990s and has decided it can’t survive only on business from locals and the existing loyal visitor base. The development would begin in 2010 or 2011 and last for eight to 15 years.

The City Council found the amount of employee housing woefully inadequate compared to the total number of employees expected. Mike Dooley, operations manager of Exquisite Development, said some 750 employees would staff the expanded resort. Sunlight’s general manager Tom Jankovsky said Sunlight currently has about 160 employees, most part time.

Councilor Dave Merritt asked if there are 50 employees living near Sunlight, “Where will the other 700 of them live?”

“I couldn’t answer that question at this point,” Dooley said, adding that they would hopefully find places and a great deal of the employees are seasonal.

Councilor Shelley Kaup said most of the employees would work in the service industry on the lower end of the pay scale, leaving them probably unable to afford the expensive housing in Glenwood.

Councilor Russ Arensman said, “I have to say I’m a little disappointed in the lack of information and the lack of preparation I see here for some pretty basic questions: What is the population? What are the traffic impacts? … There’s a lot of concerns and I’m not hearing any real answers.”

Dooley had said at one point that he didn’t have a prediction for the area’s total population beyond the figure for 830 residential units.

Mayor Bruce Christensen said, “I’m extremely disappointed with the number of ‘Nos’ or ‘We will considers’ that are in the responses to our questions.”

City councilors said they were disappointed the developer didn’t agree to conducting a joint review of the plans with both the city and the county. They also said they shared concerns over inadequate planning for traffic impacts and public safety issues like fire and police protection.

“It’s very clear that this is not going to be a community, this is going to be a luxury resort with something like a high-class 7-Eleven,” Merritt said. “So anything from a dozen eggs to underwear you’d be going down to town for. I have real concerns over the traffic generation.”

Dooley said earlier in the discussion that Sunlight would donate land to the county for fire and emergency medical services. But city councilors said the county wouldn’t build a fire station there because the area is actually under the jurisdiction of the Glenwood Springs Fire Protection District.

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121

Post Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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