Glenwood council hears earful on recycling center
midland development request denied
Developer Craig Helm’s request to amend a 1978 annexation agreement for a 6-acre piece of property on Midland Avenue to pave the way for a four-story, 71-unit residential apartment building was denied at the Thursday night City Council meeting.
Council members said they liked the idea of allowing greater housing density than the original annexation agreement allowed. They also generally want to see more rental housing being built in Glenwood Springs as a way to diversify the housing mix.
But they couldn’t give even a tentative thumbs-up on Helm’s development plan, which Helm had said he would need to hear in order to go forward with a formal development application for the project.
The denial means the original annexation agreement for the property that’s owned by the New Hope Church congregation stands. The decades-old agreement allows multi-family housing on only part of the property and single-family homes and a variety of other defined uses, including a church, elsewhere on the site.
Neighbors had vigorously opposed Helm’s proposal, mostly over concerns about higher density in what’s now mostly a large-lot, single-family residential neighborhood. They also worried about added more traffic to Midland Avenue, a concern shared by several City Council members.
Glenwood Springs will keep its options open to find a new in-town recycling center location, but come March the South Canyon Landfill will be the only central collection facility, City Council reiterated at its Thursday night meeting.
Either that, or residents will need to take advantage of curbside recycling services offered by their trash hauler until the city can come up with a workable alternative.
“We’re not likely to have another solution by March,” Mayor Michael Gamba emphasized after close to 80 area residents packed the meeting room to urge council to rethink its decision to move the recycling center four miles west of town to the landfill.
For now, though, the city is obligated to stick to its plan to close the current recycling center on School Street next to Glenwood Springs Elementary School at the end of February, and reopen a new, expanded center at the landfill on March 1.
The move is necessary to make way for an already-approved land swap with the Roaring Fork School District so that what’s now city-owned property can become part of the new GSES campus and the city can take ownership of most of what’s now Vogelaar Park situated north of the school.
Residents offered numerous suggestions to re-establish an in-town site, including options the city has already explored such as the former rodeo grounds near the municipal airport on the south end of town or even a temporary location at the former sewer plant site on Seventh Street that’s slated for eventual redevelopment.
But those locations have proven to be challenging to replicate the current fenced and gated facility that is staffed and operates during specific hours in order to control what comes into the recycling center, City Manager Debra Figueroa said.
Ultimately, the decision to move all recycling operations to the landfill came down to one of controlling costs to the city to run the program, she said, noting that offering free recycling services is an expensive proposition. Not only does the recycling program cost the city about $100,000 a year, the landfill itself is operating at about a $1 million deficit, a situation the city needs to get a handle on, Figueroa said.
Most other municipalities in the area have gotten out of the recycling business, and have left it up to private trash haulers to provide collection of recyclable materials such as aluminum, glass and plastic as part of their curbside services, she said.
That said, given the public interest in keeping the program going in Glenwood Springs, the city is willing to continue the conversation, Figueroa said. That sentiment was echoed by City Council members, especially after the numerous impassioned pleas from members of the public.
“We need to lead by example, and not follow what other (towns) are doing,” Glenwood resident Johnny Dawson said of communities that have ditched their free recycling services.
With modern video surveillance capabilities, he said it’s possible to operate an unmanned recycling center and ensure that no illegal dumping occurs.
“Nobody is going to drive all the way up to the South Canyon Landfill to do their recycling, it just doesn’t make sense,” Dean Moffat said.
“We need a central and convenient recycle center for this community,” he said, adding he’d even support a fee system of some sort. “It’s something we feel strongly about that it’s something we use regularly.”
Joe Mollica, who lives outside city limits up Four Mile Road, said trash haulers serving his area won’t do separate recycle pickups in the more remote areas. He is among the many out-of-town residents who make up a large percentage of Glenwood recycle center users.
“I would like you to reconsider the site by the airport,” Mollica and several others who spoke suggested.
The challenges there, according to city officials, are that it would add more traffic to the Midland Avenue corridor where traffic congestion is already a problem. The other big concern with the airport property is, because of its remote location, there’s a greater potential for illegal dumping of non-recyclables.
Glenwood resident and former Pitkin County public works director Bob Gish sat on the board of the former inter-governmental group Valley Resource Management in the 1990s. That group worked to find ways to divert trash from area landfills through recycling.
“Recycling does cost money,” he said. “But it’s an investment, because it takes what would otherwise be trash out of the landfill. You have to look at recycling as a preventative measure to extend the life of these landfills.”
Only one resident who spoke at the Thursday meeting, Chris Duncan, supported the city’s decision to move the recycling drop-off center to the landfill.
“I recycle, and I realize the benefits,” Duncan said. “But I’m also a numbers guy, and that’s the bottom line for the city.”
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