Midland housing plan met with serious criticism | PostIndependent.com

Midland housing plan met with serious criticism

Nick Kelly notes some of his concerns with a proposed 34-unit residential development called Fox Hollow across Midland Avenue from his house. City Council hears the plans tonight.
John Stroud | Post Independent

Midland Avenue resident Nick Kelly says the proposed 34-unit Fox Hollow residential project abutting Red Mountain along the west side of Midland Avenue is aptly named.

That’s one of the strikes against it, he said, pointing to the oak brush-covered site across the street from his house where he says deer, fox and other animals cross the street and through his and neighboring riverfront yards to get to the Roaring Fork River.

“If you put a row of houses across there you’re going to cut off their ability to pass through there,” Kelly said of the roughly 6-acre site. “I can see a more sensible development there, maybe four or five houses. But this is just too much.”

He and other neighbors have raised serious concerns about a plan to turn the mostly vacant site into 34 multifamily, duplex and free-standing homes. The plan also received mixed reviews from Glenwood Springs planning commissioners earlier this summer.

Real estate developer Craig Helm is seeking a major development permit and several design variances for the so-called Fox Hollow subdivision. The plan goes before City Council for a public hearing and possible decision tonight.

Helm proposes 12 single-family homes, 10 duplex units and 12 townhomes on property at 2225 Midland. For several years, the site has been owned by First Baptist Church, but the land was never developed, save for a modest unit that is rented out.

At a July Planning and Zoning Commission hearing, Helm said the project fulfills a “critical need” for a mix of smaller housing types in Glenwood Springs, and said it should be considered as an infill project.

Among the concessions sought is one to exceed the 35-foot building height limit, similar to the Oasis Creek Apartments in West Glenwood that council approved earlier this year largely because it, too, backed up against a steep hillside.

Other design variances sought for Fox Hollow would do away with requirements related to access street standards, garage sizes and a provision for sidewalks and a landscaped area along Midland Avenue.

While P&Z was inclined to grant the height and other design variances, when it came time to make a recommendation on the development as a whole, the panel was split 2-2, essentially resulting in a recommendation that council deny the project. City planning staff is recommending that the project be approved.

Kelly and other nearby residents say the proposal is out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood, noting that the development site is bordered on three sides by single-family homes on mostly 1-acre lots.

“The fourth side is about a stone’s throw from a steep hillside with at least some rockfall and mudslide hazard,” Kelly wrote in a letter to City Council. “This location also earns a low ‘walk score,’ and is far from public transportation.”

Michael Palmer, who also lives across Midland from the site, shared similar concerns in writing to council objecting to the plans.

“The development of this 6-acre parcel has many significant issues which will create extensive and expensive issues for years to come for the city, as well as the residents along Midland Avenue,” Palmer said.

Many of the neighbor concerns have to do with changing stormwater runoff patterns, soil stability, the need to extend sewer service to an area that remains on individual septic systems, and increased traffic on Midland.

“Development in the city of Glenwood Springs needs to be well planned and the integrity and character of existing neighborhoods need to be maintained,” Palmer wrote.

In addition to the height and other design variances, Helm is also not proposing that any deed-restricted affordable housing units be offered in the project.

City Council has suspended the city’s affordable housing guidelines indefinitely, so that isn’t a current requirement. But it was one reason some P&Z members indicated they were hesitant to recommend approval of the project.

The regular council meeting begins at 6 p.m. tonight at City Hall.