Glenwood Springs zoning code approved to preserve downtown vibrancy

Downtown Glenwood Springs.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent

The new zoning code in the central downtown area of Glenwood Springs was approved on first reading and will impact how new and demoed businesses are approved.

The second reading is not scheduled for City Council yet.

The new downtown overlay zoning code aims to help regulate new businesses or those proposing significant demolition on a building in the downtown core area. It also aims to maintain the character of the downtown core by preventing businesses from monopolizing street blocks or replacing multiple local businesses with a single large enterprise.

“We want to be able to walk around and have that vibrancy and be able to walk block to block and experience that activation, that street life,” said Danielle Campbell, economic development specialist for Glenwood Springs. “That is really the purpose of this overlay.” 

On June 15, Council created the uses they wanted to see in the downtown core area

At the Council meeting on Sept. 21, Council and the city began to discuss how to enforce that “vibrancy” on the first floor. The plan would determine the look and feel of the main downtown area, along with the building form.

The Downtown Commercial Overlay district is intended to promote downtown vibrancy and pedestrian engagement, with an emphasis on walkability and active ground-floor uses, Campbell said.

The boundaries stretch from Sixth Street to 10th Street, and from the Roaring Fork River to the alley between Bennett and Cooper Avenues. The boundaries then become narrow by half a block going south. 

Any new or 80% demoed buildings in those boundaries will be required to have 75% of their ground floor linear street frontage be an approved use. Approved use was decided by Council to be opened to the public while generating sales tax.

“We don’t care how deep it goes,” Campbell said. “We do not care about that main square footage on the ground floor, just that we want the activation on the street frontage.”

Uses decided in the last meeting include the following: 

  • Food and beverage
  • Retail
  • Indoor recreation and entertainment
  • Barber shops and salons 
  • Shoes repair and alterations
  • Spas and massage
  • Personal grooming

City staff added commercial outdoor recreation use to the usage list at the Sept. 21 meeting. Non approved use and private businesses will be allowed to go in the back of the first floor of buildings.

“A reverse mullet; party in the front, business in the back,” said Director of Economic and Community Development Hannah Klausman. 

Other changes included allowing any new businesses with approved uses anywhere on the ground floor, while restricting existing businesses that are not an approved use to expand.

For example, a bank or law office that is already established cannot expand within the boundary because they aren’t contributing to the vibrancy downtown. 

New approved uses will then have to stay as the approved use. 

Another change, with some edits from Council, is new or demoed buildings with a width of more than 75 feet must “exhibit architectural distinctiveness” by appearing as a series of buildings no wider than 50-feet.

The aim of this change is to keep the small-town look and feel of the downtown area, instead of large single-standing businesses.

“The less desired aspect of big monolithic structures, where it’s that one use, one entrance into the block,” Campbell said, explaining what the city is aiming to prevent.

Originally, the city said businesses of 100 feet and more, but Councilor Jonathan Godes amended it to 75 feet to prevent a large single-use building from attaching a micro-shop just to pass code. Godes’ motion passed 5-to-2 with Councilor Mitchell Weimer and Mayor Ingrid Wussow opposed.

“I don’t want one building to be like a micro building and the other building to be a massive building, the scale of US Bank,” Godes said. 

Godes also motioned to remove resident-occupied and affordable/deed-restricted housing as an exemption for allowed use on the ground floor, which passed 6-to-1, with Councilor Shelley Kaup opposed. 

“I’ll make a motion that we do not accept staff’s recommendation that historical buildings be exempted,” Godes said in his final motion. 

The motion failed unanimously. 

Councilor Marco Dehm motioned to approve all other staff recommendations and added lodging as an approved use to the list.

There was discussion of concerns for lodging being added to approved use because of situations like Hotel Denver forcing out multiple local merchants for more hotel rooms. 

The motion passed 4-to-3, with Councilors Weimer, Kaup and Godes opposed. 

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