Project sparks debate over parking space requirements
A proposal to reduce by a quarter the required amount of parking for a 116-unit apartment complex in West Glenwood could foretell a likely contentious discussion as the city embarks on a rewrite of its development code.
During a public hearing concerning the proposed Oasis Creek Apartments project last week, City Councilor Kathryn Trauger pointed to the planned code review and suggested the city even consider doing away with its minimum parking standard altogether.
“This is happening around the country, where communities are eliminating parking minimums,” Trauger said of a trend in urban planning to de-emphasize on-site parking for multifamily housing projects, and a shifting demographic of renters to the less auto-dependent millennial generation.
Trauger quoted a recent article she found that pointed out a conflict in municipal zoning ordinances that ask developers to preserve trees and green space on one hand, but on the other hand require “massive amounts of parking to serve a perceived need.”
“We are so limited in our available land, and I think we must start to learn to live with additional density,” Trauger said.
The current Glenwood code is undergoing revisions to better match the city’s updated 2011 comprehensive plan. What’s on the books now, though, is “based on formulas and needs that maybe we no longer have,” Trauger argued.
Several projects have been making their way through the land-use review process in recent years under the current code, including the Oasis Creek proposal.
Council postponed its decision on the apartment proposal until May 5. But a majority of council members seemed willing, based on their comments at the April 21 hearing, to relax parking and building height requirements as a way to meet an identified need for rental housing in the community.
The project is being put forth by the Richardson family, which also owns the Antlers Motel in Glenwood Springs. It calls for 116 one- and two-bedroom apartments in two, four-story buildings on the 3.7-acre property where the Terra Vista Motel and Bayou Restaurant once stood along Highway 6 & 24.
To achieve the maximum housing density that the developers say is necessary to make the project financially feasible, they are asking for a reduction in parking from roughly two spaces per unit to one and a half spaces.
In total, developers are proposing up to 188 spaces rather than the 256 spaces required by code. A little over a third of the available spaces would be situated underground, while the remainder would be in the open parking lot, including some under canopies, according to the proposal.
Each apartment would be assigned one space, with the remainder available upon request for an extra charge and a handful for guest parking, explained property manager Bryan Stern of Echelon Property Group,.
On-site property management, and preferably a resident manager, would be responsible for enforcing parking restrictions, he said.
Developers also seek permission to exceed the 35-foot building height limit in the city’s C/1 Limited Commercial zone district by more than 25 feet.
“The comprehensive plan has guided this project,” Ron Liston of Land Design Partnership, representing the developers, said. “The problem is the code is not up to speed with the comp plan.”
That plan also points to parking waivers and other concessions as a way to create “attainable housing,” he said.
Local landscape architect John Taufer, who was recently appointed to serve on the city’s code review advisory committee said he, for one, would be unwilling to do away with off-street parking requirements.
“I would encourage us to keep those requirements as part of development code,” he told the Post Independent in reaction to Trauger’s suggestion. “I just think it’s necessary.”
Taufer also urged council to deny the Oasis Creek project, mainly due to the parking constraints and the lack of any available public street parking in the vicinity.
While most City Council members said they could live with the taller buildings, especially given the location on a sloped property between Highway 6 & 24 and Donegan Road, some councilors were less willing to budge on the parking requirement.
“I am concerned about the ability to manage parking outside of their boundaries,” Councilman Leo McKinney said. “I think the adjacent property owners are going to be impacted by this.”
When it comes to allowing more dense development in Glenwood Springs, “We do need to start thinking upward and not outward,” McKinney said. “My sticking point is the parking.”