Glenwood Council open to impact fee assessment
Glenwood Springs City Council is willing to conduct a full analysis of the city’s various development impact fees to determine if any reductions are warranted, but not just for the benefit of one developer.
A proposed fee cut for the 81-unit Lofts at Red Mountain residential apartment and commercial retail complex was the main topic of discussion Thursday as council took up consideration of what would be the next block of development at Glenwood Meadows.
The Lofts project proposes 81 free-market apartments, including studios, one- and two-bedroom units, split between two four-story buildings on the south side of Wulfsohn Road across from the current Market Street intersection. In addition, the development would include 5,808 square feet of ground-level retail space.
Developer Capital Realty is asking for a reduction in fees from what’s now estimated to be more than $1 million to around $453,000 in order to make the project financially feasible, by its own assessment.
Richard Myers, managing partner for the company, said that amount is more in line with the true impacts of smaller apartment units that are being proposed. It’s also more consistent with what other Western Slope Colorado municipalities levy in the way of impact fees, he said.
“Overall, our feeling is that we’re fine paying fees for the correct amount of impact,” Myers said. “It’s just that, in our analysis, and compared to other West Slope communities, some things are off kilter that makes it hard to develop rental housing in Glenwood Springs.”
To offset the cost of new development on public services, the city assesses fees for such things as water and sewer improvements, as well as impacts on public schools and fire protection services.
Some fees are already being re-evaluated as the city has been looking at ways to provide incentives for development. Council is open to a broader analysis, so that any changes would apply not only to the Lofts project but any other developer.
“I’m more than willing to look at our fee structures, but I would need more analysis before I can make any decisions,” Councilman Matt Steckler said. “It has to be something that would apply to everybody who wants to build. We do need to look at the real impacts.”
One of council’s newest members, Steve Davis, agreed, pointing out that the cost of development was something he talked about during his campaign this spring.
“This conversation is not new,” Davis said. “The fees we have now aren’t necessarily fair, and they need to be re-evaluated. And anyone, whether they’re building a single (unit) or 300 apartments, needs to have that same consideration.”
Myers agreed and said the Lofts’ request was not intended to be exclusive to their development.
“I do think anyone who builds housing in Glenwood Springs should get the same decrease that we get,” he said.
Any time fees start to exceed $6,500 per unit, “you start to push the tipping point to make it feasible,” he said.
In the case of the Lofts, the developer is proposing a reduction in school impact fees from $134,798 to $25,429.
That’s because the estimated number of school-aged children on a straight per-unit basis is inflated, given the types of apartments that are being proposed, Myers said. Leases will not allow school-aged children to reside in the studio and one-bedroom apartments, for instance.
“For the two-bedroom units, we’re fine paying the full rate,” he said.
Myers had also approached the Roaring Fork School District in January floating the idea of providing a certain number of apartments to local teachers on a first-refusal basis in exchange for a reduction in school impact fees. But the district passed on the offer.
While the school district recommends development impact fees to be assessed by local jurisdictions, the city does have the discretion to establish its own fees.
In addition to the reduced school impact fees, the Lofts is also seeking a reduction in fire impact fees from $144,425 to $24,300, and in the water and sewer improvement fees from $296,000 to $113,400 and from $177,605 to $81,000, respectively.
As for the Lofts proposal itself, council seemed inclined to approve the project, including variances for a reduction in the required number of parking spaces and a special permit to exceed the 40-foot building height limit.
However, the matter was continued until the council’s July 2 meeting for final consideration. Any impact fees would not be assessed until an actual building permit is issued, which will give the city time to do a complete analysis of its fees.
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