Local developers pressure council into reducing changes to inclusionary housing code on second reading | PostIndependent.com

Local developers pressure council into reducing changes to inclusionary housing code on second reading

Work continues on the upper buildings at the new Altitude Apartments complex in south Glenwood Springs between Blake and Palmer avenues near Walmart.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Glenwood Springs city staff presented to City Council on Jan. 6 to amend inclusionary housing standards in the city by placing deed restrictions on 20% of all new developments of five or more units.

But, after some pushback from developers on the new proposed standards, council settled on a compromise. 

Currently, inclusionary zoning standards in the city apply to 10% of all new developments of 10 or more units. The staff’s recommendation is to change those standards from 10 to 20%, while adjusting it to apply to units of five or more, instead of 10 or more for both rentals and for-sale units.

The recommendation was approved on first reading, with Councilors Charlie Willman, Ingrid Wussow and Tony Hershey voting against it. 

Before it was brought to council, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended to amend the proposal to maintain the current code for a 10% deed restriction on projects with for-sale units, and to amend the code to a 20% deed restriction on rental units for new developments of 10 or more units.

P&Z members were concerned that if they amended the threshold of the unit numbers to five instead of 10, they would lose work from locally-owned development companies. 

After local developers and brokers came to voice their opinions at the second reading last week, Council changed the motion and approved the P&Z’s recommendation. 

Developers and brokers were the only people who appeared from the public to speak, giving council what some members said was a one-sided perspective to decide from. 

“This is a housing affordability conversation,” Mayor Jonathan Godes said. “This isn’t, ‘How do we make lives easier on the developers’ conversation.’”

He said he approved the change last time because it was recommended by staff and the city’s Housing Commission. As the professionals, they should know what they’re talking about, Godes said.

Local developer Dave Rippy, of David Rippy Construction, who has lived in Glenwood Springs his whole life, said that the affordability standards do greatly affect the more-local developers, making it harder on smaller developments to make any money. 

Rippy said he’s built around 70 developments in the region, and housing developments like Bennett Court Townhomes and the 805 Blake Apartments would never exist with this kind of zoning.

Although he said he understands the need for more affordable housing in Glenwood, having employees who work as far west as Parachute, the code change would stop him from being able to develop here, Rippy said.

“I don’t envy you with this,” Rippy said. “I don’t have the answer, but I want to be straight up with you — if this goes I won’t be building in Glenwood.”

Larger developments of closer to 40 units can handle it because, “they can space it out,” he said. 

Glenwood Meadows developer Robert Macgregor echoed Rippy’s speaking points, adding that it would also affect large developments, and that he thinks it will halt any developers from wanting to build in Glenwood Springs.

“It’s exceedingly difficult at 10%,” he said. “I think it’s dead in the water at 20%.”

Ben West, a broker for Integrated Mountain Group, and Mark Gould Jr. of Gould Construction, also chimed in to claim there would be no development in Glenwood Springs if the zoning code passes. Gould and Macgregor pointed out how expensive and unique the area is to develop in and Gould said that much of the soil and the town requires remediation for development.

Councilor Paula Stepp said she understands high building costs and the burden it has on developers. But she also said the city has to drag them into creating affordable units.

Stepp said that over four years, the developers are never trying to work with the city to create more affordable housing, and if anything, they are always looking for loopholes. She’s watched them slip under the wire, or opt to build smaller to avoid requirements for affordable housing. 

“I have a hard time saying let’s slow down,” she said. “How slow do we go? I’ve been sitting here for four years trying to figure this out and working on the housing commission. …We are the only ones that can say, ‘You have to make a change.’”

Godes agreed, and said that the developers made the same threats when they added the 10% inclusionary housing, and they didn’t stop developing then. He said they also weren’t anymore eager to build when there was no inclusionary housing. 

“Twenty four months ago, we were at 0% and they weren’t lining up,” Godes said. “We didn’t have a queue full of applications.”

After discussions, Councilor Shelley Kaup motioned to follow the P&Z recommendation and Councillor Marco Dehm seconded her motion. The motion passed with Councilors Ingrid Wussow and Tony Hershey joining Kaup and Dehm voting in favor. 

Almost every councilor, except Hershey, said that they wanted to get work sessions going to keep looking at options for more affordable housing in the city. They were reminded by City Attorney Karl Hanlon that they can continue to look to the Glenwood Springs ad hoc housing committee for more options for housing in the future. 

Post Independent reporter Cassandra Ballard can be reached at cballard@postindependent.com or 970-384-9131.

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