Old library site subject of Glenwood Springs ballot question
The shortest question on this fall’s ballot in Glenwood Springs has some potentially long-term ramifications on the future appearance and function of a fairly high-profile downtown street corner.
Question 2A simply asks voters within Glenwood Springs city limits whether to give permission to the city government to consider selling or trading the former Glenwood Springs Branch Library property at 413 Ninth St.
Situated at the northwest corner of Ninth and Blake, the property, including the now-vacant 4,500-square-foot building, came into city ownership last year after the new Glenwood Springs Library was built as part of the larger Cooper Commons building at Eighth and Cooper.
Last spring, City Council began soliciting proposals for eventual use of the building. Those ranged from an idea put forward by the Garfield County commissioners for a senior center serving the local age 65-plus population, to possible shared office and programming space for multiple nonprofit human service organizations.
Most of the proposals would involve a lease arrangement of some sort with the city. However, council members also wanted to reserve the right to sell the property to one or more of the proponent organizations, or to put it on the open market for possible commercial, residential or mixed-use redevelopment.
Voter approval is required before any city-owned real estate can be sold or otherwise conveyed. A similar question was put to city voters in the 2013 municipal election asking whether the city should be authorized to sell or trade a vacant parcel in the 700 block of Colorado Avenue, across from the Garfield County Courthouse.
That measure passed easily, and the city has already had some initial discussions about selling that property to the county to accommodate a parking structure that would serve the courthouse and county government facilities, as well as general parking needs in that part of downtown.
Regarding the old library property, “This is a tool that gives us the most flexibility, assuming the city doesn’t want to be a landlord,” City Councilman Todd Leahy said during a June discussion of the various options that were before council.
“We’re just asking voters to let us look at all the options,” he said at the time, emphasizing that the city may or may not ultimately decide to sell the property.
In a relatively quiet election season as far as local ballot issues go, the Glenwood Springs ballot question has generated little debate, at least publicly. No one spoke to the issue at the Glenwood Chamber’s Issues & Answers Night on Oct. 14, and there have been no letters to the editor specifically related to the topic.
At the time City Council decided to the put the question to voters, some council members and residents did question whether it would be wise for the city to unload the property, arguing its potential public benefit outweighs any private use.
Councilman Dave Sturges spoke during the June discussion in favor of accommodating a senior center, which likely would entail a lease with the county.
“Our senior population is growing, and seniors are living longer,” Sturges noted. “Yet there is no central senior activity center in Glenwood. Seniors are looking for more options for [housing], eating and transportation, and the county is interested in taking some leadership in that.”
Post Independent columnist and “Our Town” blogger Kathy Trauger also stirred the pot some with a suggestion in one of her recent columns that residential redevelopment of the property might better fit the goals and objectives outlined in the city’s comprehensive plan for creating a “vibrant” downtown area.
And in July, the local chapter of the Salvation Army, which was one of the organizations submitting a proposal for use of the old library space, was before council asking for a temporary lease so it could have a larger, more accessible space to meet with its assistance program clients. Council declined, and the building has remained unused in the meantime.
As it stands, city officials have not resumed the discussion about how to use the facility or whether to sell it, until the outcome of Tuesday’s final balloting on Question 2A is known.
“This will be an additional piece of information so that we can go back to council and decide what the next step is,” City Manager Jeff Hecksel said.
In the meantime, some minor repairs and maintenance issues involving the building have been addressed, including work on the roof, the elevator and the building’s alarm system, he said. The city had also considered using the building for temporary storage while work was being done on the Municipal Operations Center in West Glenwood, but that wasn’t necessary, Hecksel said.
Long term, Hecksel said the city would probably want to decide within a reasonable amount of time whether to lease the property for a particular use or uses, or whether to consider selling or trading it.
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