Hold your nose and annex Red Feather Ridge | PostIndependent.com

Hold your nose and annex Red Feather Ridge

In a split vote, the Glenwood Springs Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended extending the city’s urban growth boundary in order to annex the 132-acre Red Feather Ridge subdivision on Four Mile Road.

Now the matter goes to the City Council.

Red Feather Ridge is a new name plastered on an old project that has been troubled from the start.

Originally approved by Garfield County as Four Mile Ranch with 58 two-acre single-family lots, the project went into default in late 1999 when the erstwhile developer, Lester Colodny, spread investors’ funds too thin installing utilities and rebuilding the bottom end of Four Mile Road.

What followed over the next year was a land use and road construction nosebleed that culminated in foreclosure of the property by the financier, MidFirst Bank of Oklahoma City.

MidFirst invested $10.3 million in the project, and is now left holding the deed to a project that is far from a sure thing. The Oklahoma bank was forced to spend another $1 million in 2001 to finish the road work.

Now the bank is trying to recoup its losses by proposing a higher-density development of 149 single-family homes to be built on 42 acres along the existing subdivision roads.

The remaining 90 acres would be divided among various types of parks and open space.

It is seeking annexation and zoning to come into the city’s fold for utilities, services and security.

MidFirst has offered to give the city $400,000 upfront, and a $2,500-per-lot impact fee, which would roll in over time. That would cover much of the cost of building a roundabout intersection at the foot of Four Mile Road.

MidFirst has offered to price 23 lots at affordable levels and dedicate passive open space and an active park to the city.

You can’t blame MidFirst for trying to come up with what may be a decent offer in an effort to salvage its unfortunate investment.

On the other hand, MidFirst’s financial losses aren’t the city’s problem, and dangling $750,000 in front of the City Council shouldn’t result in an automatic yes vote.

Development of Four Mile Ranch – oops! we mean Red Feather Ridge – will exacerbate water problems in the Four Mile area made all the more vivid by this year’s drought.

Four Mile has suffered shortages for years, and adding another 149 bathtubs, sinks and spigots to the demand on Four Mile Creek could be more than it can bear.

But those houses, particularly if lawn space is limited and native, drought-resistant vegetation is used for most of the landscaping, will use less water than the beautiful hay meadow many locals remember.

Folks, the camel’s nose pushed its way into the tent a long time ago. It’s now in to its shoulders, and plenty of city and Four Mile residents know that it’s not a sweet-smelling critter.

At this point, however,the city’s best choice is to go ahead and annex the subdivision and make sure it gets developed and built up to city standards.

The city should stand firm on key issues: truly affordable lots offered in the first phase, extra funding to match state grants so the active parkland can be developed, compliance with street safety requirements, and a clarification that city water is only supplementary to what may be inferior quality well water.

In addition, the city should be a stickler on important small points: no ridgeline development, a reduction in irrigated landscaping, a trail connection that connects to Midland Avenue, and requiring bear-proof trash containers.

Left in the county, none of these things would happen.

– Heather McGregor, Managing Editor

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