New Glenwood councilors take on fee-waivers at Meadows
A night that saw three new Glenwood Springs City Council members sworn into office and the reappointment of Michael Gamba as mayor for another two years included a trial-by-fire of sorts for the council newcomers on the land-use front.
One of the first orders of business for newly elected council members Shelley Kaup, Jonathan Godes and Rick Voorhees was a request by the developers of the previously approved Lofts at Red Mountain project at Glenwood Meadows to more than double the number of apartments, from 88 units in two buildings to 185 units in five buildings.
The amended housing plan would essentially build out the residential section of the larger Meadows planned unit development fronting Wulfsohn Road, just below the existing Glenwood Green Apartments and across from the Market Street commercial strip.
Key to making the project viable, according to developer Richard Myers of Texas-based Realty Capital, will be a more than $1 million reduction in development impact fees for water, wastewater, emergency services, schools and use taxes.
Before the project won its initial approvals from the city in July 2015, the developer contended that the city’s impact fees are out of line for the type of modest-sized rental housing being proposed.
The Lofts now calls for a mix of approximately 60 percent one-bedroom units of about 650 to 800 square feet in size, and about 32 percent two-bedroom units of around 1,000 square feet. About 5 percent of the units would be smaller studios and about 3 percent larger three-bedroom units.
Based on current market rental rates, a one-bedroom apartment would go for about $1,300 per month and a two-bedroom for around $1,900, Myers told council members.
Over the past two years, the city embarked on an extensive effort to review its impact fees and ended up adjusting the water and wastewater system improvement fees, as well as fire/EMS fees, in order to give breaks for smaller unit sizes.
City Council last year also adopted a new affordable rental housing policy, allowing full waiver of certain fees for developers who agree to put long-term deed restrictions on rental units keeping them affordable for individuals or families earning no more than 120 percent of the area median income.
Myers said the Lofts project is not inclined to go after the full fee waivers, offering that the deed restriction program has its own challenges in terms of getting financing. But he’s still seeking a substantial fee reduction to build what would be free-market apartments.
“We would like to get started in the next couple of months, but right now the project is teetering on the fees,” Myers said. “This is a real opportunity to make a dent in the housing crisis in the Roaring Fork Valley.”
Council, after allowing Myers to make his case and hearing from the city’s senior planner, Gretchen Ricehill, who recommended against all but one of the proposed fee waivers, continued the matter until the May 4 council meeting when a decision is likely.
A requested variance from the city’s parking requirement is also something council members want to discuss further.
Myers said the project is being built for people who “live and work here in the Roaring Fork valley,” in particular critical public sector employees such as teachers, nurses, police and other emergency responders.
“If it’s not affordable, who is going to rent it?” Myers asked rhetorically, adding the project represents a $50 million investment.
“The project has to be geared to people like school teachers, otherwise we’ve just screwed up a $50 million investment,” he said.
Even with the proposed reductions, the Lofts would still be paying $287,310 for city water system improvements, $308,843 for wastewater, $114,579 to the Roaring Fork School District for public school impacts, and $50,000 in upfront use taxes for building materials purchased outside of Glenwood Springs.