Midland plan stirs Glenwood Springs housing debate
Residents living near a piece of property on Midland Avenue in Glenwood Springs where a developer is asking for more than double the units from a plan rejected in August have doubled down in their opposition.
However, the latest barrage of letters to the editor and to City Council opposing the 71-unit Midland Lofts apartment project has also spawned some support for developer Craig Helm and his plans to try to address some of the city’s housing needs.
Helm is before City Council on Thursday night seeking amendments to a 38-year-old annexation agreement with the city that would allow him the density necessary to build the four-story apartment building on the 6-acre site located about a third of a mile north of the 27th Street roundabout.
“To continue to deny viable housing projects that are close to the job concentration only pushes housing downvalley, which substantially increases the traffic problem for each of these jobs,” argues Russell Talbott in a letter supporting Helm’s plans.
Talbott is part of the church organization that is hoping to sell the proposed development site to Helm.
Helm makes a case for his plan in a guest opinion that appeared in the Tuesday Post Independent, saying rents for the studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units would fall within the Garfield County Housing Authority’s income guidelines for affordability.
“We feel the development we are proposing meets needs identified by the city and county, and has the support of many professionals in the community,” Helm said.
Helm’s earlier plan for 34 houses to be sold to individual buyers on the free market, including 12 single-family homes and 22 townhouse and duplex units, was shot down by council.
Reasons ranged from concerns that the plan did little to address Glenwood’s need for more affordable housing types, to traffic issues associated with adding more houses to an already congested Midland Avenue.
Opponents, most of whom live in close proximity to the development site, say the new plan is even worse in regards to traffic.
“If City Council allows this unwalkable project with its absurd 750 percent increase in density, the increased traffic snarl at the 27th Street bridge will only be one of its many negatives,” Nick Kelly, who lives across the street from the site, wrote in his latest missive regarding the proposal.
Kelly says any plan to build more than a few single-family houses on the site would force that many more people into their cars because of the distance they would otherwise have to walk to get to bus stops and shopping areas.
In a letter addressed to City Council, Kelly said the city should not jump at Helm’s proposal with other, what he calls more appropriate high-density development in the pipeline. Specifically, a 72-unit project on Blake Avenue behind the 27th Street bus station that goes before city planners after the first of the year “is a far better location for high-density housing than [the Midland site], which is nowhere near walkable for shopping, schools, bus service, etc.
Nearby residents Randy Rippy and Julie Wilson said in a Dec. 8 guest opinion piece that Helm’s proposal is akin to “plopping down a hotel-looking apartment building with 103 bedrooms in the middle of a single-family home neighborhood.”
“A fair assessment by some is that we need more affordable housing in Glenwood Springs,” they wrote. “But the issue has to be about smart, sensible growth in locations appropriate for apartments and multifamily dwellings that are adjacent to bus stops, shopping and employment.”
Some council members who voted against the previous project in August expressed a desire for smaller, more affordable rental units rather than larger houses to be sold on the open market in $400,000-$500,000 range.
Helm says his new plan addresses that concern by diversifying the housing mix in Glenwood Springs. He also counters in his guest opinion that the site is within 10 minutes walking distance to public transportation, according to Google Maps.
In addition to numerous trees and extensive landscaping to soften the impact of the apartment building, the proposal also includes two access points, a 31-space underground parking garage and a 102-space surface parking lot.
City Council is considering only the annexation agreement amendment and conceptual review for the project at its Thursday meeting. If the annexation agreement is amended, a formal development plan would still have to be submitted for further consideration.
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The Glenwood Springs Community Center will be closed through at least Saturday after an employee displayed symptoms of COVID-19, a city news release states.