Glenwood Springs council lends wary support to county’s 5-Star variance application
Post Independent correspondent
Glenwood Springs City Council will reluctantly join Garfield County’s efforts to adopt a 5-Star business variance program countywide.
Council last Thursday voted to “fully support” the variance application “to ensure that certified businesses within Garfield County are able to increase capacity, while keeping the community safe,” reads a letter sent to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
County commissioners last week voted to seek permission from the state to join the program following a two-week decline in the county’s coronavirus case numbers and other metrics.
Businesses could apply to operate with fewer COVID-19 restrictions if the county is approved for the program. In return, those same businesses would be required to meet higher public health standards set by Colorado health officials.
If a county’s COVID-19 metrics remain in the orange level, such as in Garfield County, establishments approved under the program could operate at laxer yellow-level restrictions.
Because Garfield County commissioners last month adopted a resolution allowing restaurants to operate at 50% indoor dining capacity against state recommendations, some on City Council are concerned the county’s application will be rejected. Colorado officials last week moved all level-red counties to orange, permitting limited indoor dining.
“I guess I have a little bit of a problem with a couple of things,” said Mayor Jonathan Godes at the Thursday meeting. “One is the county is not currently operating within state guidelines, so I have a concern that the state is not going to look favorably on this application. I would suggest, as a city, we get our ducks in a line and, if the state does greet the county with a rejection, then we are prepared to right away submit our application as a municipality.”
Godes added that, as the county seat, Glenwood Springs is home to half to two-thirds of the county’s restaurants, and therefore should have more of a say on the administrative committee that would oversee the program. The advisory board would include chamber members, city officials and some business representatives.
County commissioners last week expressed concerns that the committee didn’t have enough representation from the county’s other five municipalities.
“I’d hate to tie ourselves to the county with no wiggle room,” Glenwood Councilor Steve Davis said. “We need to be our own applicant in this process.”
Angie Anderson, with the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, assured council that Garfield’s program would be modeled after Summit County’s strategy — affording each municipality flexibility to handle inspections and enforce rules. The application has the support of Rifle and many of the county’s smaller communities.
“Just because there’s only one person from the city on the committee doesn’t mean there’s not a voice,” Anderson said. “We can certainly represent the community well.”
Council ultimately chose to sign on to the endeavor, agreeing to prepare the city’s own application if the county’s is rejected.
“We wholeheartedly support this effort and will assist in the program’s oversight and implementation,” the letter read. “The city of Glenwood Springs is committed to using the city’s resources and staffing to encourage and enforce compliance for businesses and has emphasized that businesses within our borders must comply with the State Public Health Orders in advance of this application.”
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