Residents unhappy with Glenwood Springs’ annexation decisions file 480 Donegan referendum
Group organizes to push elected officials for more public engagement opportunities
For some West Glenwood residents, the 480 Donegan project looms over the area as both an affront to the process of public engagement and a potential threat to their lives.
Following approval of the project’s annexation and rezoning, despite West Glenwood residents’ tireless attempts at convincing the Glenwood Springs City Council to vote otherwise, some residents are mobilizing to repeal the council’s decision through a referendum.
“When this development was proposed the outrage was immediate and palpable,” said Laurie Raymond, a Glenwood Springs resident and West Glenwood business owner. “Many said, ‘What are we going to do? We can’t let this happen.’ And, I think that sense of urgency came from our experiences with the 111 Fire in 2020.”
A nine-acre wildfire near West Glenwood, 111 caused severe traffic issues, penning in many residents and igniting the realization that without a citywide evacuation plan a significant portion of the area’s residents might not be able to escape the next wildfire.
With the 400 units initially proposed by 480 Donegan developers R2 Partners, Raymond said West Glenwood residents feared increased traffic would only exacerbate the evacuation concerns.
Following meetings between key members of the community and the developers, it became clear to the residents their individual voices were not being heard, so they began to organize via Facebook, creating the West Glenwood Pasture Group page.
Despite the group’s name and the sentiments expressed by some in public meetings, Raymond said the group was not formed to save the nearly 16 acres of pasture slated for the 480 Donegan project as open space.
Former City Council member and current Glenwood Springs resident Greg Jeung said the group’s goal is to encourage local elected officials to consider development as an issue that impacts everyone living in the area, whether they are residents of the city or the county.
“It doesn’t feel like this council is looking at the broader issues at hand,” Jeung said.
After City Council approved the annexation and rezoning of the 480 Donegan project Nov. 4, the group rebranded its Facebook page as the Glenwood Springs Citizens for Sensible Development, which currently has membership of about 630 Facebook accounts.
“The reason this group is moving forward with the referendum is to inform the broader community about what is happening with development throughout the valley,” said Tracy Trulove, a Glenwood Springs resident and Sensible Development group member. “There has been so much focus on the West Glenwood situation, I just think that if I were to sit down with other residents at a local basketball game that they wouldn’t be aware of all the other developments on the table and being built out.”
Engaging the public
Throughout the development process, which began in the summer of 2020 with meetings between the developers and some community members, Raymond said the residents felt overlooked.
“When meeting with the developer, R2’s Barry Rosenberg took up most of the scheduled time trying to sell us on the project,” Raymond said. “We didn’t feel like we had much time to ask questions or suggest changes.”
As the project moved forward to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, Jeung said residents started presenting their concerns to the city’s representatives.
“It’s not easy for people to take time off or find the time to attend these weekday meetings, some of which are on Zoom, and not everybody has the ability to attend those,” he said.
Raymond added, “But, such as it was, people still came. There were hours of testimony at those P&Z meetings — all of it opposed for reasons of safety, overdevelopment, traffic concerns and no representation for those affected.”
Many of the public comments throughout the process were submitted by Garfield County residents who live outside city limits, but within the urban perimeter of Glenwood Springs.
Without residency in the city, they have no representative in the council chambers, despite being impacted by the same council decisions that affect their neighbors.
But even members of the group with representation, like Raymond, felt the public engagement process was skewed to favor the developers.
“The deference and respect that goes to the developer is unequal to that given to the people,” Raymond said. “We who are going to feel the impacts of a development are not given the same respect.”
Specifically, members of the group expressed discontent with the fact they are each limited to three minutes of public comment during council meetings, while the developer was not given a time limit to respond.
“The city could have taken the initiative — well ahead of this decision — to host meetings engaging the public,” said Trulove. “Those meetings could have been planned for people to provide feedback about what they would like to see built here.”
On Nov. 18, members of the Sensible Development group submitted the initial paperwork for a referendum to repeal the council’s 480 Donegan decision.
To move forward with the referendum, the group needs to gather enough signatures from registered voters in Glenwood Springs equal to 5% of the total number of ballots cast in the city last election, about 300 in this case, who voted in the most recent previous regular election; however, the signatures do not need to be from residents who cast ballots in the previous election.
The group has until Dec. 9 to collect those signatures and return them to the city clerk for verification. If enough votes are verified, the City Council will have to choose whether to repeal the annexation and rezoning decisions or put the decisions on a ballot for the Glenwood Springs residents to decide during the next scheduled election.
Trulove said the Sensible Development group did not have a current tally of the signatures they had collected, but 22 people volunteered to circulate the petitions as of Friday.
“We’re also building relationships with other groups who are discontent with our local governance,” Trulove said. “The people want more voice, more engagement and more opportunities for feedback in the decisions that will guide the future of our community.”
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Leo Spielberger’s family lost everything in the Marshall Fire in late December.