Red Feather players flock to debate

Greg Masse
Post Independent Staff
Post Independent Photo/Jim Noelker

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Members of the anti-Red Feather Ridge group, Community Voices for Responsible Growth, called the developer’s claim that the project will bring $8 million to $9 million in

benefits for the city “extremely creative accounting.”

Red Feather Ridge attorney Lee Leavenworth defended the estimate, saying it’s based on the city’s listed value for parkland and payments of cash to fund road work, a cemetery, park planning, emergency services and affordable housing.

The two sides debated the project Wednesday during the monthly luncheon of the Garfield County Republican Party, held at Buffalo Valley Inn.

MidFirst Bank of Oklahoma, owner of Red Feather Ridge through foreclosure, has won City Council approval for annexation and zoning of the 149-unit, 132-acre housing development. The annexation is now slated for a vote by city residents in a special, mail-ballot election set for June 24.

The last day for city residents to register to vote or change their address for the election is next Wednesday, May 23. Registration is done at the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder’s office.

The luncheon debate also touched on size and price of housing lots, traffic impacts, Red Feather’s effect on the small town character of Glenwood Springs and the campaign under way by opposing sides in the issue.

MidFirst Bank already holds approvals from Garfield County to develop 58 two-acre lots at Red Feather Ridge.

But the bank sought a more dense development and city annexation because the county plan won’t pay back the bank’s investment and contributes to sprawl, said Leavenworth.

He said the 149-lot project will offer housing at more affordable prices. Free-market homes would sell for $250,000 to $300,000, and 23 deed-restricted affordable homes would sell for $120,000 to $160,000.

By contrast, he said the lots alone in the 58-lot project would cost $180,000 to $250,000, and would end up being developed as second homes.

CVRG members Michael Larime and Russ Arensman said with no golf course and few view of Mount Sopris, Red Feather Ridge is unlikely to attract that calibre of development.

But the 149-unit project will end up costing city taxpayers, add 1,400 auto trips a day to South Midland Avenue, and won’t deliver the financial benefits promised by the developer.

“The only way you can come close to reaching the developer’s claims of $8 million to $9 million in benefits is if you accept their inflated land price of $125,000 an acre,” said Arensman.

Leavenworth said the price of $125,000 per acre is based on the city’s official valuation for park land, and he insists the project is the best he’s ever worked on.

Arensman noted the open space and cemetery land offered by the developer is on steep, unbuildable hillsides and isn’t worth that much.

Leavenworth said the open space was not considered in the monetary value of the city benefits.

CVRG spokesman Michael Larime said the biggest fear his group has is that “Red Feather Ridge, and developments like it, will steal Glenwood’s soul.”

“It’s not Red Feather alone, but the specter of Red Feathers to come,” he said.

While about a dozen members of CVRG attended the luncheon, no one stepped forward to represent the pro-Red Feather Ridge group, Neighbors for Responsible Planning.

The debate was recorded by community television Channel 12, and will be rebroadcast at noon and 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

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