Fate of Glenwood Springs’ Sixth Street parcel remains in question
Glenwood Springs City Council voted Thursday night to adopt a resolution authorizing minor, temporary improvements on the so-called North Landing site on Sixth Street, but members of a new neighborhood caucus say it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The caucus, made up of business and commercial property owners and residents living north of the former Grand Avenue Bridge landing area, say the move not only stifles public participation, but also directly contradicts the Sixth Street Corridor Master Plan adopted just last year by City Council.
After canceling its June 21 regular meeting due to a lack of a quorum, Council’s July 5 agenda looked like a long laundry list of catching-up items, which pushed the Sixth Street discussion to nearly 10 p.m.
Some members of the caucus also felt as though the agenda item was scheduled in a way so that those wanting to voice their opinions regarding the city inherited property adjacent to the newly rebuilt pedestrian bridge would leave before having the chance to do so.
The property was deeded over to the city by the Colorado Department of Transportation when the newly realigned Grand Avenue Bridge was built.
The resolution, which passed on a 5-2 vote with Councilors Rick Voorhees and Shelley Kaup opposed, authorizes, “minor improvements and landscaping on the North Landing site, pending approval of a development plan.”
In doing so, it points out the improvement are to be temporary, and that the city could sell the property to a private developer under an agreed-to development plan, rather than maintaining it as a public park.
“Let’s keep going here,” Councilor Todd Leahy said roughly four hours into the meeting, ahead of opening up the discussion for public comment and encouraging council not to postpone the item.
“We are on a little bit of a roll of staying focused,” he offered. “This resolution that we are asking tonight and asking for public comment on, because I know a lot of you have been waiting for this, is a win, win, win for everybody’s ideas …
“At the end of the day there will be a winning idea, and that’s what it will be.”
Caucus members who were able to stick it out don’t see it that way.
“What I want to talk about was public space – public avenue space. I want to talk about how important it is to a community and why it’s important,” said North Glenwood resident and caucus member Gay Moore.
After rattling off a list of parks throughout the city, including Centennial, Veltus, Two Rivers, Sayre, and more, including numerous open spaces, Moore then posed the question, “But what does North Glenwood have?”
“This North Landing area belongs to [the citizens]… let’s let the people decide what to do with this,” she said.
The sentiment among caucus members was that the resolution reads nice in that it will put in place “improvements and landscaping” on the parcel. But that language is a vale for the city’s intentions of selling it off to a private developer in the future, caucus members said.
Earlier this year, City Council rejected three different conceptual ideas for redeveloping the site with a mix of commercial use and a public plaza area. The question has been put out again in a new request for proposals.
“You don’t need a resolution to plant grass,” North Glenwood Caucus member David Hauter said, addressing Council on Thursday.
Hauter told the Post Independent in a separate interview, “This resolution creates a problem because it has the potential to take away the valuable public open space that was just gifted to us. The resolution seeks private development on what should be public space, without a public vote.”
Mayor Michael Gamba spoke of possible private development in the form of a “brewpub or restaurant,” and was worried the area, if left as public space, could quickly turn in to a dimly lit de-facto area for transients to hang out.
“An example that was brought up of a very beautiful park-like area that doesn’t seem to have a problem with transients is the courtyard of the Hotel Colorado,” Gamba said. “And the explanation for that is that’s private property, and it’s able to be controlled, whereas public property is not.”
While the North Glenwood Caucus does not oppose private development, it believes keeping the parcel adjacent to the pedestrian bridge as a public open space or park would actually further incentivize private development around the public parcel.
“The flexibility the resolution gives the council is that the Council can sell the property without submitting it to a public vote,” Hauter explained. “The vote for the resolution is ostensibly because the council is seeking development proposals for the second time for the North Landing site that would transfer the parcel out of the city’s hands, rather than be used for a park.
“This kind of flexibility only creates uncertainty, with little or no commitment in the minds of the public whether the North Landing will become a public plaza or not,” he said..
Regarding the agenda item being placed toward the end of the night, City Manager Debra Figueroa said, “The order is typically set by staff. Many times it just ends up being the order that the items were turned in by staff to the Clerk’s Office.
“If I know an issue is going to be contentious while we are putting it together, I try to put those items near the start of the agenda,” Figueroa added. “We do not always guess correctly, and I sometimes just miss it.”
The mayor does have the authority, however, to change the order of the agenda, she added.