No fee waivers for Glenwood Meadows apartments
Lofts at Red Mountain developers will not be awarded some $1 million in requested impact fee waivers, leaving the 185-unit apartment project at Glenwood Meadows in limbo even though it has its development approvals to proceed.
Richard Myers, representing developer Realty Capital, made one final pitch to Glenwood Springs City Council Thursday night, seeking about a two-thirds reduction in the city’s required impact fees for things like water and sewer system improvements, fire and EMS equipment replacement and schools.
A somewhat reduced amount of use taxes, paid on building materials for the project, was also being proposed.
“What we are proposing is still a significant amount of money,” Myers said of the $755,732 in fees that would have still been paid on the project even with the waivers. “We feel this is the correct number for our true impact on the community.”
City Council OK’d an amendment to the previously approved development plan allowing for full buildout of the project, from 88 units originally up to 185 units in five buildings, along with variances for such things as parking and building heights.
When it came to the fee waivers, though, the majority of council agreed the free-market studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom rentals did not meet the affordable housing standard that would otherwise warrant a waiver of impact fees.
“The issue for me is, are these units affordable?” Councilor Kathryn Trauger said. “This project does add more units, which are needed, and I would be able to support this more if a few of those units had been made affordable.”
The city last year adopted a new affordable rental housing policy, allowing for a full waiver of most impact fees for developers who agreed to place long-term deed restrictions on units holding rents to no more than the 30-percent-of-income threshold for individuals or households earning up to 120 percent of the area median income.
Lofts developers said they were not inclined to cap rents, arguing that the apartments would be inherently affordable due to their small size, and that deed restrictions make it hard to obtain construction financing.
Councilor Jonathan Godes said it’s “disingenuous” to call the Lofts affordable at an estimated $1,900 to $2,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment.
“I don’t know too many teachers or city employees who can afford that,” he said, countering that the Lofts project, with its planned swimming pool and fitness facilities, qualifies more as a “high-end” project.
The lack of council support to grant the fee waivers frustrated Councilor Todd Leahy, who said the city might as well close its doors to new residential development, and especially apartment projects.
“Glenwood needs affordable housing, and apartments in and of themselves are affordable,” he said. “Our fees are a barrier to entry by developers to get units on the ground, and here we are up here still laying an egg, that’s my opinion.”
In addition to the affordable rentals policy, the city last year also adjusted its impact fee structure for water, wastewater and fire/EMS, in an effort to recognize the lesser impact for smaller unit sizes.
But that didn’t go far enough, Mayor Michael Gamba said, adding that further fee breaks come down to a policy question if the city is serious about spurring more development of those types of units.
“Apartments by their very nature are affordable, because they have to meet the market demand,” Gamba said.
Myers said after the meeting that he was “very disappointed” in the council’s decision not to grant the fee waivers, but said the development group would have to reassess its next move given that the project itself has the green light.
“We’ve been working on this for four years,” he said. “We just feel like this is not the fair fee for this project.”
Robert MacGregor, of Glenwood Meadows owner the Dunrene Real Estate Group, was also disappointed in the council’s determination that fee waivers are not warranted for the project.
“We’ve been trying for more than a decade to build housing out there. I guess the proof is in the lack of any pudding,” he said.
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