Red Feather Ridge flies

Greg Masse

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Despite a public outcry Wednesday night against the approval of Red Feather Ridge, two reversed opinions allowed the Glenwood Springs City Council to approve the 149-lot development.

To approve Red Feather Ridge, City Council extended the city’s Urban Growth Boundary and approved annexation into the city.

During the development’s latest application process, Councilmen Don Gillespie and Larry Emery changed their opinions from opposing the development to backing it, allowing it to pass at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday by a vote of 4-3.

Red Feather Ridge is planned for 149 houses, park land, space for a municipal cemetery, and affordable housing. It is located about a half mile south of the Midland Avenue and Airport Road intersection, on the east side of Four Mile Road.

Twenty of the 25 citizens who spoke on the topic at a public hearing in front of the Glenwood Springs City Council Wednesday night opposed the project for reasons ranging from increased traffic on Four Mile Road, stress on city infrastructure, visual concerns and worries about more dense development up the now-rural Four Mile Road.

“I believe that the majority of the audience and the majority of the community thinks we should stay with the Urban Growth Boundary,” Glenwood Springs resident Dean Moffatt said.

Moffatt was referring to the principal issue council had to decide: whether to extend the city’s Urban Growth Boundary, or UGB.

The UGB is an imaginary line drawn roughly around the city that is supposed to separate dense developments from rural areas.

Five citizens spoke in favor of the project during the hearing including Trey Holt, owner of Farnum Holt Funeral Home, and developer Mark Gould. Holt said finding land for a new cemetery is extremely important because Rosebud Cemetery is running out of space and the city will need a new graveyard in the next two years.

Gould said, “This is a first-class way a property should be developed.”

But their motives were questioned.

“The people who I saw speak in favor of it seem to have the potential to benefit financially,” said Glenwood Springs resident Stanley Trulock. “It really doesn’t seem to be a good deal for the citizens of Glenwood.”

During Red Feather’s first incarnation, which endured the city’s development process last summer, comments from each council member made it clear the development would be defeated. So before a vote was taken, the developers withdrew the project from the table.

The main change since that first application is the developer’s offer of land for a much-needed city cemetery. The cemetery land would take the place of a 17-acre passive recreation area.

Red Feather Ridge applicant Guy Harrell, of Oklahoma City-based MidFirst Bank, added the cemetery and other monetary incentives to the latest proposal to convince the Glenwood Springs City Council to approve the 149-lot housing project.

Apparently, he finally offered enough. But Harrell’s incentives gave members of the public just one more target to shoot at.

“Just because developers come in and flash some cash, we shouldn’t be ready to change” the Urban Growth Boundary, said Glenwood Springs resident John Korrie.

The cash Korrie referred to includes $400,000 to help fund a roundabout at Four Mile and Airport roads; $2,500 per lot for transportation improvements; and $100,000 toward the construction of a park.

The development also will include 23 affordable housing units built by MidFirst Bank and possibly some lots set aside for Habitat For Humanity to build some houses. Park land will also be included in the package.

In all, the developers said they’re giving the city a total of $8 million in cash and land.

The annexation also will give the city control over the development – something it would not have had if the subdivision was developed as approved by Garfield County, as 57 two-acre lots (with the 58th being used for a fire station).

The city also will gain all water rights that come with the property.

While the lure of money and park land was strong, Gillespie and Emery said when the UGB was originally drawn, the line was put at the base of Four Mile Road for no particular reason, so there’s no strong reason for it to stay there.

“I don’t think we drew a line in the sand when we drew that line,” Gillespie said.

Emery agreed.

“It pretty much was an arbitrary line,” he said.

Gillespie said his main issues with the first application included questions about the water system and concerns with drainage in the area designated for parks.

“Extending the UGB was never a problem for me,” he said. “I just wasn’t comfortable enough at the time to accept what was going on up there.”

Emery said he wasn’t in support of extending the UGB last summer, but he said recent rumblings about denser zoning rules being allowed by Garfield County factored into his change of heart.

Also, he said the cemetery weighed heavily for him.

“That’s $2 million worth of land that we don’t have money for in our coffers,” he said.

Both also said it’s important for the city to have control of what goes on at its edges.

Mayor Don Vanderhoof not only pushed for approval of the project last summer, but also gave a speech after its defeat, warning that Glenwood Springs was in danger of “becoming a complete elitist town like Aspen.”

He also said the UGB was never set in stone and when it was drawn in 1996, the base of Four Mile Road was merely “a handy place to put it.”

The three council members who still opposed the project, Dan Richardson, Jean Martensen and Rick Davis, each felt that the city still has a lot of room to grow within the existing UGB, and that it’s premature to move the city limits up Four Mile Road.

“Where our Urban Growth Boundary sits right now is a pretty darn good place for it,” Richardson said.

Davis also said the city should master plan the Four Mile Road area before they start to develop it.

“If we go forward with this one, I believe it’s just going to be a domino effect for the rest of it,” he said.

The annexation was passed conditionally; it still hinges on whether the city and Red Feather Ridge developers can come to terms on items like trail construction, a bus stop and other items. If they come to terms, it will be officially ratified at a later City Council meeting.

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