South Blake apartment project approved | PostIndependent.com

South Blake apartment project approved

A walker heads towards the bus station near the project location for the Oakhurst Subdivision apartments, a 79-unit project near 27th Street and Blake Avenue approved by Glenwood Springs City Council Thursday.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

A 79-unit apartment project planned for a 6-acre site on the hillside north of the Walmart store in south Glenwood Springs won City Council’s nod of approval Thursday night, against the objections of neighbors.

“This council represents the entire city, not just a specific neighborhood … and this [property] owner has met all the conditions necessary to go ahead and develop this property,” outgoing council member Kathryn Trauger said before council voted 5-0 to approve the project.

“We really need to do what is best for the entire city,” she said. Trauger announced at the end of the meeting that she will be stepping down from council due to a job conflict.

What is best for Glenwood Springs, she and the other council members concurred, is that the apartment project is a big step toward addressing Glenwood’s workforce housing needs.

“I do have a lot of sympathy for the concerns you raise,” Councilor Jonathan Godes said before a council chambers packed with residents of the south Blake and Palmer Avenue neighborhoods who had opposed the project out of concern for increased traffic and other impacts.

“But 79 units is something that this community needs,” Godes said.

In a separate motion, the council also voted 4-1 to open the controversial “Blake gate” once the project is built out, which isn’t expected for another year or two. The gate currently blocks access on Blake between 27th and 29th streets by the Walmart store.

The city will also look to partner with the developer to help cover the costs to convert a two-block section of Blake between 24th and 26th streets to one-way southbound, as a way to prevent pass-through traffic during the peak evening traffic times when Colorado 82 gets backed up.

Still open for discussion are similar traffic controls along the section of Palmer Avenue to the east, between 23rd and 26th streets, including a possible gate or cul de sac at that location.

City Engineer Terri Partch recommended opening the Blake gate in an effort to enhance street connectivity in the area and make the nearby Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus station more functional. For the same reason, she recommended against blocking access from the new housing project onto Palmer.

“From a city street system standpoint, it would improve some of those intersections, and allows for better movement” to not put up road blocks, Partch said.

However, resident after resident who got up to speak about the proposal from Eagle Valley developer Dave Forenza and Glenwood Multifamily LLC, expressed reservations to adding that many new residential units to the neighborhood.

Palmer Avenue resident Jim Otto said the project site was originally intended for single-family homes, not high-density apartments or condominiums.

“Keep the gate closed, and go back to single-family homes,” he said.

Another Palmer resident, Trish Kramer, pointed out that the neighborhood became a “default bypass” during the recent Grand Avenue bridge closure and detour.

“This is a about neighborhood safety and integrity,” she said. “I’m concerned about the vague lack of planning for this development, and I see lots of possibilities coming up as a result of this.”

Councilor Steve Davis was in favor of the apartment project development, but opposed the move to open the Blake gate and said the Palmer Avenue concerns need to be addressed, as well.

“We really have to try to protect these neighborhoods as we go through this process,” Davis said.

“Palmer will not die with this,” he said.

Architect Bobby Ladd, representing the developer, said the objective is to bring the mostly two-bedroom apartments in at between $1,500 and $1,600 per month for rent. With that, they also are interested in deed-restricting the units to hold rents low under the city’s new incentive program for below-market rentals. The program allows certain fees to be waived in exchange for rent controls.

A traffic consultant advised City Council that the project is expected to generate an additional 543 vehicles per day on an average weekday in the vicinity of 27th and Blake. That would include a peak morning flow of 43 extra vehicles per hour, and another 57 beyond current levels during the peak evening hours.

A 10 percent “multi-modal trip reduction” was factored into that equation, because the project is located next to RFTA’s Bus Rapid Transit station, the consultant said.