Glenwood Springs riparian setback ordinance moves forward, face mask ordinance aligns with state order |

Glenwood Springs riparian setback ordinance moves forward, face mask ordinance aligns with state order

The banks of the Roaring Fork River near the confluence with the Colorado River.
Kyle Mills / Post Independent

After several discussions and multiple edits, Glenwood Springs City Council took the first step Thursday toward a new riparian setback ordinance.

“This is a continuation of a continuation of a continuation,” Mayor Jonathan Godes said, introducing the riparian agenda item during the council’s regular meeting. “And, we’re still on the first reading.”

Originally slated for a first reading July 16, the riparian setback ordinance sparked conversations throughout the community for two years before landing on the council’s agenda. 

Originally suggested by the city’s river commission in 2018, the riparian setback is intended to conserve and promote the health of the city’s riparian ecosystems and water quality as well as protect drinking water by maintaining a functional natural buffer adjacent to waterways. 

The ordinance would prevent property owners with riverfront properties from removing native vegetation or constructing permanent structures within a percentage of a setback, measured from the ordinary high water mark on their property.

Most of the debate around the ordinance has centered on the setback length and percentage.

Prior to Thursday’s meeting, City Attorney Karl Hanlon provided the council with a version of the ordinance, containing all the councilors suggested edits compiled so far and highlighted in various colors.

Godes set the discussion afloat by moving forward with a motion by Councilor Tony Hershey, which was seconded by Councilor Steve Davis, to approve Hershey’s language within the ordinance — highlighted in red — and solidify the setback percentage at about 33% of a 35-foot setback.

The motion was voted down 5-2, with only Davis and Hershey voting to approve. 

Councilor Rick Voorhees made a motion to approve the ordinance with staff changes to the language — highlighted in green — and Councilor Paula Stepp seconded. 

Mayor Pro Tem Shelley Kaup said she would vote to approve Voorhees’ motion if he amended to include all language, except Hershey’s edit to increase the area in question to 33%, keeping it at the 20% council previously approved. 

Some councilors bemoaned the back and forth nature of the approval process, but Hershey said amendments and discussions were paramount to the legislative process.

“Sausages are not pleasant to watch being made, but they are still good,” he added. “Hopefully, we make some good sausages tonight — just don’t watch us do it.”

Voorhees said while the legislative process was important, the ordinance proposal edits needed to move forward at some point.

“I’m trying to avoid a group writing project here,” he explained. “I think we ought to go with the horse we rode in on.”

Davis disagreed, responding, “I don’t like the horse we rode in on. That’s why we’re trying to change it.”

Voorhees’ motion, amended by Kaup, for language as changed with portions of the ordinance applying to a 20% area of a 35-foot setback was approved 6-1, with Hershey voting against.

Face mask consistency

Following Gov. Jared Polis’ mask mandate, city staff requested the council’s guidance about whether Glenwood Springs’ ordinance should align with the governor’s or continue to be enforced as written.

Some of the differences between the city’s ordinance and Polis’ order included age exemptions, with Polis’ order exempting children 10 years old and younger versus the city’s exemption of children 2 years old and younger, as well as disability exemptions and broadcasting exemptions.

Hershey, who previously spoke frequently against a mask mandate, said the city should align with the state-level directives because data showing masks reduce infection rates.

“I think (the face mask requirement) has been very successful everywhere,” he said. “I think we’ve done a good job, and people have been very compliant.”

Councilor Charlie Willman said he supported the consistency, but would like to see the removal of the delineated area downtown where masks are required outdoors because enforcement is challenging. No motion was made to remove the area.

Hershey made a motion to make the city’s ordinance align to Polis’ order with the addition that the downtown area remain in the ordinance, and Stepp seconded.

Council unanimously approved the alignment.

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