Glenwood aims to streamline development review
Glenwood Springs landowners can expect a more streamlined development review process and generally a more “user-friendly” code under an extensive city development code rewrite that’s nearing the end of a two-year process.
The public will have several opportunities to weigh in on the proposal in the coming months, as City Council moves toward likely adoption of the new code early next year.
City planners and a special technical review committee have been working with consultants from Clarion Associates since late 2015 to analyze and essentially work to overhaul Glenwood’s decades-old land-use development code.
Parts of the guiding document that outlines application procedures, zoning, permitted uses and development guidelines in Glenwood Springs have been amended over the years to address various issues and concerns. But the entire code has not been updated in some time.
“At some point, the different aspects of the code don’t talk to each other any more, so that’s one reason to have an overhaul,” said Jenn Ooton, the city’s community and economic development director.
“It’s also a chance to look at how things have changed, and the way people live and use spaces differently and make the code more current,” she said.
Clarion has established a dedicated website, glenwoodcode.com, that explains the process and the changes that are being proposed.
In general, the new code seeks to streamline the development review process, fine-tune the city’s zoning districts and uses, and consolidate and upgrade development standards.
A primary goal for City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission members has also been to give a little more surety to the process, so developers know early on if a certain project is going to fly before they get too far along.
As for upgrading the city’s development standards, the new code would remove “ambiguous and subjective language,” rewrite the city’s parking and sign codes, reconsider the role of historic preservation in the code, and put more focus on infill and redevelopment, according to a recent presentation by consultants.
The code rewrite also delves into some of the unwieldy requirements around hillside development.
Currently, the code identifies standards that are “fragmented and in some cases confusing,” consultants note. There are also few incentives built into the code to encourage appropriate types of development on sensitive hillside parcels.
To fix that, the new code looks at allowing clustering of residential units or commercial structures on sites to avoid the more-sensitive areas, without treating the entire site in the same manner.
Some of the more controversial aspects of the code, which often lead to contentious requests for code variances, are also addressed. Those include on- and off-site parking, site access and circulation for both vehicles and pedestrians, landscaping and fencing, exterior lighting, and signs.
Regarding parking, the current requirements can be difficult to enforce, and contain technical standards that can be hard to achieve, consultants have suggested.
Changes include a recognition that the trend is away from accommodating vehicles and more toward providing incentives for transit-oriented, walkable developments.
The city’s sign code would also be altered under the proposed rewrite to eliminate some of the content regulations, reduce the number of geographic sign districts, and develop new, modern standards for electronic signs.
Ooton noted that future discussions will also address some of the newer incentives for affordable housing development, such as fee waivers for deed-restricted rental units, which will need to be written into the code.
The Sixth Street redevelopment master plan also envisions a building height bonus that developers could take advantage of if they create affordable rental or for-sale residential units.
City Council, at its meeting today, is to discuss a timeline for additional discussion of the code rewrite, public hearings and formal consideration of the document.