Any new south Glenwood development needs access
Until major improvements are made to Midland Avenue and the 27th Street bridge, and/or the South Bridge project is built, any large-scale development in the south Glenwood area or up the Four Mile corridor is premature, according to the city’s leaders.
Three months after developers pulled their plans for the Glenwood Ridge annexation and 413-home residential development up Four Mile Road in the face of almost certain denial by the city, it’s pretty clear from the city’s perspective what would have to happen for a revived development plan to be embraced.
“If we don’t have the necessary infrastructure in place, all we’re doing is adding to the problem,” Glenwood City Councilman Ted Edmonds said during an informal Thursday work session discussion with Elk Meadows Properties representatives Gary Menzel and Larry Green.
“We need to figure out how to deal with the transportation issues out there before we add even a hundred more housing units to that corridor,” Edmonds said.
Edmonds and the other City Council members who were on hand for the discussion were resolute in that assessment, as Menzel and Green were back for a reality check on their former application to annex roughly 500 acres of the larger Bershenyi and Martino ranch properties.
The plan was to eventually build a mix of 413 single-family homes, townhouses, duplexes and condominiums in three connected neighborhoods over the next two decades on the former ranch lands straddling Four Mile Road about 1.5 miles outside the existing city limits.
After closely following the city’s comprehensive planning process in 2011, Green, a longtime area land-use attorney, said a development plan was put together that “we thought met that vision.” That plan included a mix of housing types in compact neighborhoods with a central city-owned park, situated within what was determined to be the city’s “urban growth boundary.”
“Somehow we missed the boat,” Green said, suggesting the city’s elected leaders apparently have a different interpretation of their own master plan.
In addition to a city staff recommendation to deny the Glenwood Ridge project, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission was also unanimous in recommending the project be denied.
“The result was frustrating, and even more frustrating was our perception that we were not really given any meaningful feedback about how the city viewed the project and where we deviated from the comprehensive plan,” Green said.
At the time the application was withdrawn on Aug. 7, which was the same night City Council opened its public hearing to consider the proposal, the developers asked for a follow-up informal discussion to try to hash out some of the issues.
Where the comprehensive plan probably fell short was in not addressing the infrastructure needs of the city before new development could occur, especially along the South Midland and Four Mile corridor, said Councilman Mike Gamba.
“Right now, we have a major road infrastructure deficiency in south Glenwood,” he said, referring to the estimated $15 million to $20 million in upgrades needed to the existing road system, including essentially rebuilding South Midland and the 27th Street bridge.
Also clouding the discussion is the much larger South Bridge project, he said of the envisioned new route farther to the south along Airport Road to what would be a new bridge over the Roaring Fork River and link to State Highway 82.
“One way or another we have to get a second roadway into that area … but it’s something that Glenwood Springs, by ourselves, will not be able to accomplish,” Gamba said of the estimated $40 million price tag on the South Bridge project.
Had consideration of the Glenwood Ridge proposal proceeded back in August, Gamba said that he, for one, was willing to compromise by limiting the number of houses that could be built until at least some of the road needs were addressed.
Still, any project of that size “is extremely scary for any community,” Gamba said, acknowledging that new development up Four Mile would draw opposition even if roads were not a concern.
Other council members pointed to the last large land annexation and residential development on Four Mile that came before the city, Red Feather Ridge, which was shot down by city voters in a referendum after council had approved it.
“Ranching is not economical anymore, I get that,” Edmonds said of the likelihood of eventual development outside the existing city limits. “At some point in time, there is going to be development up there.”
Mayor Leo McKinney, who represents the south Glenwood ward on the City Council, said the South Bridge would change things as far as allowing new development in the area.
“But we need to partner with (Garfield County) to build the darn thing, so some of the pressure is on them,” McKinney said.
Council members assured the Glenwood Ridge reps that the city is working to eventually implement the needed infrastructure improvements, including $350,000 budgeted next year for engineering work on the Midland Avenue rebuild.
The city is also proceeding with the formal Environmental Assessment for the South Bridge, which recently has involved negotiations with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and the Colorado Department of Transportation for a Rio Grande Trail crossing and Highway 82 intersection that would be part of the project.
“I’m not only optimistic, I’m determined to see South Bridge or another solution out there … in the next three to five years,” Gamba said.
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