City, RFSD working out land swap details
Glenwood Springs city officials want to ensure a planned land swap to accommodate the Glenwood Springs Elementary School renovation doesn’t hinder development options for the river confluence area.
City Council will be meeting jointly later today with the Roaring Fork School District board to hammer out final details of the land exchange.
The deal would put a little more than half of what’s now the school district-owned Vogelaar Park parcel in the hands of the city for possible sale to a residential developer as part of the larger confluence-area redevelopment plan.
In turn, the district would take ownership of the city shop and recycling center parcels south of the existing GSES building to use for its redesigned school campus, building addition and renovation of the 1920s-era original building.
The school project is part of the larger $122 million bond issue approved by district voters last November. A separate city election last summer gave permission to transfer the city-owned land.
In working out the details of the land trade, a couple of issues have arisen.
First, in taking ownership of what’s now a park, the city will need to find another piece of land to transfer a longstanding recreation land designation tied to a 1980 federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant that helped pay for park improvements.
The city has identified three possible parcels where that designation could be transferred, including two along the Roaring Fork River between GSES and Glenwood Springs High School.
“That is a burden that the city is taking on as part of the deal,” said Andrew Gorgey, the acting city manager.
Completing the land swap will mean that the city owns the parcel with the recreational use designation, so that the school district can proceed with its project in a timely manner.
If the city wants to divest itself of the park parcel for other use, such as private development, it would need to convince the feds to transfer the designation elsewhere, Gorgey explained.
More recently, City Council members expressed some concern with the proposed school site plan in relation to the Vogelaar parcel.
The city, in planning for the Eighth Street connection and the confluence-area development, has identified that area for possible high-density residential development.
If that’s the case, it would like to have access from Eighth across the west side of the parcel and a connection to Ninth Street for traffic flow purposes.
However, the most recent school site plan shows a school bus drop-off area where the Ninth Street extension would be located, with a single in-and-out access to the Vogelaar site from Eighth.
The district is concerned that a through street would interfere with the bus zone. However, it appears there should be enough room for a street and a separated bus drop-off area, council members indicated during a Monday work session.
“I’m afraid we would be eliminating development possibilities without some (street) connection there,” Mayor Mike Gamba said.
Councilor Todd Leahy agreed, and said a through connection is important to keeping the city’s street grid intact; unlike the end result when the new high school was built, he noted.
“The whole goal with this swap was to try to get some housing down there, which will help the school district,” Leahy said. “We need to build housing, now.”
The school plan also calls for a full regulation soccer field on the portion of the current Vogelaar site that the school district would retain. The city would like to see the field moved as much to the west as possible in order to maximize development potential for its portion of the site.
Time is of the essence for the school district to get the land swap deal completed. A ceremonial groundbreaking for the Glenwood Elementary School project is set for May 31.
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