Red Feather Ridge unwelcome in Glenwood
After Red Feather Ridge developers withdrew their project application Thursday, Glenwood Springs Mayor Don Vanderhoof warned that the city could become “a complete elitist town like Aspen.”His comments came while council members aired their opinions on the project following a public hearing.Unanimous public opposition to the Four Mile Road subdivision apparently was too much for developers to overcome. After council members made it clear the project would not be approved, project attorney Lee Leavenworth withdrew the application. At issue was whether to extend the city’s urban growth boundary, a dividing line between land that’s to be developed densely and land to be developed in a more rural manner. If the line was extended, it would have cleared the way for Glenwood Springs to annex the land and allow the developer to subdivide it into 149 lots. As it stands, the land has approvals from Garfield County to be subdivided into 57 two-acre lots, with the 58th lot soon to become a fire station. The city had much to gain: a 35-acre park, control over the development, water rights, hundreds of thousands of dollars in developer incentives, 23 affordable housing units that would have been built and financed by the developer, MidFirst Bank out of Oklahoma City, Okla., and possibly a location for a much-needed new city cemetery. “The bank, in making that commitment, is taking all the risk,” said MidFirst representative Guy Harrell. “The financing part is something that no one else could or would offer.”On top of that, the affordable housing would have been built within the first two phases of the project, or within five years. But concerns about traffic, long-term costs to the city, irrigation water and extending the growth boundary before its time doomed the proposal. In an impassioned speech, given after the conclusion was already known, Vanderhoof expressed contempt for the decision.”The decision we make tonight is probably the most important decision that has been made in the 6 1/2 years that I’ve served on this body,” he said. “We are not just deciding on a housing project, we are charting the direction of future growth of our city.”All other directions the city can grow are constrained by mountains, so annexing land on Four Mile Road is, in essence, the last frontier, he said. “If we refuse to annex the Red Feather Ridge into the city, we have decided that Glenwood Springs is going to become a complete elitist town like Aspen,” he said. “We will have to rewrite our long-range plan to indicate that we have no interest in providing housing for our working-class people.”Each of the 13 people who addressed council was strongly opposed to the dense development. They were concerned about water, too much traffic on Four Mile Road, a premature expansion of the growth boundary and down-the-road costs to the city. No one spoke in favor of the project. Councilman Dan Richardson said he recently discussed the issue with about three times the number of people who spoke Thursday night, and all but one expressed opposition. Councilman Dave Merritt was categorically in favor of the project, saying it’s time to expand the boundary and try to provide more housing for the working class.But as the rest of the council members expressed thoughts on the proposal, it became clear with a simple count that the project did not have the votes to pass.It remains to be seen whether the developers will come back with another version of the project. They could save the headache and sell the lots as they are. According to Leavenworth, the lots could sell for $200,000 to $225,000 each, so MidFirst really doesn’t need the approval. But Four Mile-area resident Jim Hawkins pointed out, “They’re fighting awfully hard and giving the city anything they want for someone who doesn’t need it.”In other business, City Council:-Granted nearly $14,000 in funds for a detailed downtown parking study and report. The study is planned for Aug. 8-12. -Approved an appropriation request of $4,000 toward a whitewater park study.-Approved an appropriation request of $518,000 from the River Trails Fund to build a pedestrian underpass and trail connection along Midland Avenue.
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