The good, the bad and the UGB
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Affordable housing, cemetery placement and the city’s Urban Growth Boundary were just a few of the topics discussed at Thursday’s Issues and Answers Forum on Red Feather Ridge.
The forum, held at Glenwood Springs City Hall, gave area residents a chance to ask questions about the development in the final weeks of a campaign that will culminate with a June 24 special election.
Answers came from a panel of six representing proponents and opponents of the project.
Red Feather Ridge, or RFR, is a proposed 149-lot planned residential development located on 132 acres on the east side of Four Mile Road. MidFirst Bank of Oklahoma City, which obtained the property when the original developer defaulted, is now backing the project. Its plan would commit 90 acres to open space, park and recreation and cemetery uses.
Developers also have offered $400,000 to help fund the soon-to-be-built roundabout at Four Mile and Airport roads; $2,500 per house for transportation improvements; and $100,000 toward building a park. The development also would include 23 lots for affordable housing and three lots for Habitat For Humanity to build houses.
In a 4-3 vote Feb. 20, the Glenwood Springs City Council approved annexation and zoning for the project, and extended the city’s Urban Growth Boundary to accommodate the more dense development. At the same time, the council agreed to hold a special election on the project.
Two groups formed for the campaign: the pro-Red Feather Neighbors for Responsible Planning and the anti-Red Feather Community Voices for Responsible Growth.
Opponents say a denser project would bring too much traffic, would ruin the rural atmosphere of Four Mile Road and would cost city taxpayers money in the long run.
Guy Harrell, a representative for MidFirst Bank has said the land will be developed no matter what.
“There’s a misconception that the Red Feather Ridge project, if it is defeated, will become open space, and this is wrong,” said Mayor Don Vanderhoof, who sat on the panel as an advocate of the project, during his opening remarks.
Local architect Dean Moffatt said Community Voices for Responsible Growth is “broad-based,” and challenged notions that the 58-lot plan already approved by Garfield County is full of “super lots.”
“This is not a trophy home subdivision,” he said.
Many of the questions posed by the public – in the audience and phoned-in inquiries from those watching the live Cable Channel 12 broadcast on television – involved the city’s future costs of annexing RFR. But there were few solid answers.
“How do you justify a development that has no mitigation for the city?” asked City Councilman Larry Emery, who sat in favor of the project.
Councilman Dan Richardson, who sat on the panel with the opposition, said he didn’t like either plan, but hopes that a “no” vote by citizens would yield a new plan that would take some ideas from each of the first two plans.
“If you vote `no,’ there’s an opportunity for a plan `C,'” he said.
Vanderhoof disagreed, guessing it’s unlikely that after 20 months of meetings, changes to the plan and appeasements to the city that the developer would start all over.
“There is no plan `C.’ The developer is not going to go back and make a plan `C’. I don’t know how we could make it any plainer than that,” Vanderhoof said.
Part of the RFR proposal offers the city much-needed land for a cemetery. And while pro-Red Feather panelists Emery, RFR co-designer Jeff Vogel and Vanderhoof agreed it would be an adequate spot for a city cemetery, the others questioned if the space would be proper.
“We don’t think this is an appropriate location, at least not the best location,” CVRG member Russ Arensman said.
He suggested that South Canyon could be a better cemetery site.
Emery said there’s been an “exhaustive study” of the space that indicates it would be a fine spot for that use.
The affordable housing aspect of the project was also debated. While those who support the project claim the city’s affordable housing program could finally have some stock to work with, opposition members asked whether the homes would truly be affordable.
“We have really abused the word `affordable,'” Moffatt said.
Panelists also debated traffic numbers. Arensman said a study showed there would be a 1,000 car-trip-a-day difference between the two projects. Emery said the difference is closer to 600 trips per day.
“Basically what we’re looking at is the lesser of two evils,” Arensman said. “Which one is worse? . We have heard that there is no plan `C’. Well, we’ll never know unless we vote `no’ and find out.”
Emery said the fate of the project is an emotional issue, but when it comes down to what’s best for the city, annexing RFR makes the most sense.
“With the county plan, we have no open space that’s usable. With the other one, there’s lots of open space,” he said.
Mail-in ballots for the special election will arrive in city residents’ mailboxes two weeks before the June 24 election.
Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511
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