Glenwood Springs looks to hotel conversions for housing solutions

The Affordable Inn sits in West Glenwood along with Hanging Lake Inn in the background.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The city of Glenwood Springs is looking to long-term stay hotels to provide affordable housing.

“What we are trying to do is make the process quicker for those hotel conversions,” Glenwood Springs Assistant City Manager Jenn Ooton said.

Glenwood Springs City Council voted unanimously with council member Shelley Kaup absent July 7 to change the zoning rules for buildings to accommodate converting motels and hotels to extended stay and multi-family housing.

The zoning changes could help developers fast track the process of converting the hotels to housing while avoiding the expense of building costs, which makes affordable housing so hard to accommodate.

Zoning changes made for extended stay 

Extended stay hotels will be classified as commercial, which will not require a planning application. It would change the commercial license to a commercial use license and require only a building permit application for remodeling. Building permit reviews typically take six to eight weeks.

Staying commercial will allow for system improvement fees. 

“There wouldn’t be a payment for school dedication, there wouldn’t be a payment for park dedication, because they would stay in a commercial category,” Ooton said.

There would be a required kitchenette with a separate sink and built-in cooktop, ¾ bathroom that requires a shower and a laundry facility on premises that includes a washer and a drier.

People’s stays will not exceed 180 days, unless the individual works for a government agency or a quasi-government agency. Payment restrictions will be 20% of the units at an average of 80% area median income.

Rent and Income limits are published annually by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, a Glenwood Springs Planning and Zoning Commission Report states.

The changes also require certain lighting standards, although Ooton said that she had driven around the area, and parking lots and motel doors generally were well lit. 

There will also be an exemption from providing additional parking spots if the number of units remains the same. Recreational vehicles would also be barred from extended stay parking lots. This exemption also requires that the hotel is within 750 feet from transit.  

“RFTA has struggled to meet our hiring requirements for the bus service,” RFTA Director of Facilities Mike Hermes said. “RFTA is currently looking to a hotel for employee housing, and the parking requirement is a big deal for us.”

Hotels in existence the date the ordinance takes effect will be provided a 90-day extension for the installation of fire suppression systems. It also requires that the building is connected to a properly sized and approved city water service during the time of the building permit and meets required fire suppression flows.

Hotel conversion to multi-family residential

Converted hotels will be classified as residential with the Planning Commission as the deciding body. Typically, both the Planning Commission and the City Council would require a hearing. To speed up the process, the Planning Commission will hear and decide on proposals with nine to 24 units, and the City Council will hear and decide on proposals with 25 or more units.

There will be no final plan review if the building footprint doesn’t change, which could shorten the development review timeline by 12 weeks. A building permit review process of six to eight weeks is still required.

“You’re not losing anything, because any concerns that there would be in terms of engineering or other site considerations could be dealt with through the building permit,” Ooton said.

There will still be a public hearing requirement but without a 28-week process. 

The conversion would be subject to residential system improvement fees and inclusionary zoning requirements.

It will be exempt from open space requirements, which usually state the need for 20% of the space to be open communal space. This is exempt due to how little space most of the hotel and motel buildings have to expand.  

Providing enough parking spaces will not be exempt for multi-family residential hotel conversions and will be kept the same as for multi-family residential living. If the converted hotel does not have enough space to add more parking spaces, then city staff has suggested combining units to follow code. 

AMI and housing needs across the employment spectrum

“The housing affordability challenges in our community impact a wide range of households. Our regional housing needs assessment identified significant shortfalls across nearly every income level from very low income all the way to over 160% of AMI (area median income),” Glenwood Springs Planning and Zoning Commission states.

—  City police officer (100% AMI);

— Marketing and communications specialist at CMC (~70-75% AMI),

— Established Teacher (80% AMI);

— Registered nurse at Valley View (~120% AMI);

— Senior Systems Administrator at Holy Cross Energy (~160% AMI);

— Dental assistant (50-60% AMI).

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