Glenwood Springs City Council dives into controversial apartment project | PostIndependent.com

Glenwood Springs City Council dives into controversial apartment project

Architect Bobby Ladd, at the podium, presents the plan for 79 apartments on land just north of the Wal-Mart store on south Blake Avenue, before a packed Glenwood Springs City Council chambers Thursday night.
John Stroud | Post Independent

Opening the so-called “Blake gate” that for three decades has blocked through access along a section of south Blake Avenue near the Walmart store would free up traffic flow in the area, according to Glenwood Springs city planners and engineers.

But it’s not a critical condition for access in and out of a controversial 79-unit apartment project at that location to function adequately, both city staff and the project applicant said during a public hearing Thursday night.

“Opening the Blake gate does improve the level of service at intersections in that area,” city planner Hannah Klausman said in presenting her staff report on the project.

Doing so is supported by city staff, the city’s Transportation Commission and by the Colorado Department of Transportation as a way to allow traffic to move more freely to and from Colorado 82 and to businesses in the area, she said.

Council did not get to a decision on the apartment proposal being put forth by Glenwood Multifamily LLC but did extend its meeting curfew by a half hour to 11:30 p.m. in order to hear from the applicant and at least some of the 23 people who signed up to speak.

A busy agenda Thursday included approval of a new retail marijuana business, the Green Solution, in West Glenwood at the site of the current Vic’s Route 6 Grill restaurant. But that and several other items before council delayed the start of the hearing on the apartment project until after 9 p.m.

The hearing was continued until council’s Feb. 1 meeting, when it will likely be one of the first items on the agenda.

Project architect Bobby Ladd, representing the group of owners led by Eagle Valley real estate developer Dave Forenza, acknowledged that traffic is a big concern for the neighbors in the area.

But the project, which was scaled back from 104 units originally to 79 mostly two-bedroom units spread across 10 buildings, could be much larger based on zoning for the 6-acre site. The project would entail 64,000 square feet of development, as opposed to the 239,000 square feet that could be built on the site, Ladd said.

At 14.3 dwelling units per acre, that’s less than the adjacent Oakhurst Townhomes, he said.

While the developer supports opening the gate just to the south of the project, it’s not crucial to the development, Ladd said.

“It was never our intent to force traffic that direction,” he said.

But the project does meet a need for workforce rental housing in Glenwood Springs, and the developer is interested in entering the city’s new deed-restricted rental program for some or maybe even all of the units, Ladd said.

The program, approved by City Council last year, allows developers to place an income-capped deed restriction on units in exchange for certain impact fee waivers.

“We are very interested in looking at putting all of our units into that program, and our intent is to try to push everything into that price range,” Ladd said.

Those who spoke at the meeting expressed concerns about traffic spilling onto substandard side streets, including the narrow, pot-holed section of Blake from 26th to 23rd streets, and onto Palmer Avenue to the east.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission last month recommended approval of a plan in a split vote. It calls for 77 two-bedroom units and two one-bedroom apartments.

To help better direct vehicle flow and prevent pass-through traffic, developers were asked by P&Z to pay the cost to convert part of Blake Avenue, between 24th and 26th streets, to one-way southbound and place a landscaped median at 26th to block traffic headed north.

Similar concerns about pass-through traffic on Palmer Avenue have also been raised. The development plan calls for Palmer to be connected directly to the north end of the new apartment complex.

Neighbors submitted a petition with more than 90 signatures requesting another gate on Palmer blocking traffic flow between the new apartments and the established neighborhood.