Won’t you be my neighbor? The Confluence open house spurs concern over parking
Not every neighbor was necessarily breaking out the jello cakes and welcome baskets at Habitat for Humanity’s open house in Glenwood Springs on Tuesday.
Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley hosted an open house for prospective buyers to come ask questions about signing up to live at the Confluence at Midland Avenue and Eighth Street.
Although the meeting was intended to answer questions about buying housing, it was greatly overshadowed by neighboring homeowners concerned, mostly about parking.
“It’s not your fault, but now it’s your problem,” said Gary Vick, a resident of the adjacent neighborhood. Vick also owns a second home in Evergreen and only stays in Glenwood part-time.
The Habitat development slated to break ground in October, created quite the stir with the nearby homeowners in the neighborhood right next to the slated development because they think two parking spots per housing unit is not enough.
The development is slated to be eight units, with six two-bedroom units and two three-bedroom units.
The units will be sold to accommodate someone who makes an income of 80% area median income, $79,350. That price cap was negotiated and decided between City Council and Habitat for Humanity at 80% AMI of a four-person household to be able to accommodate an average family size.
The point of looking at area median income and creating those caps is to make housing affordable so families and individual people are not spending more than one third of their income on housing.
The two-bedroom houses will begin at $250,000, and the three-bedroom homes at $325,000.
Habitat will allow homeowners to receive a 3% appreciation on their home, and if sold, the property would then be vetted and resold with the help of Habitat to keep the property at an affordable 3% appreciation price in perpetuity — or basically forever.
Families will be required to have one person who works in Glenwood Springs, if not the 81601 area code, and they will not be able to take work outside of the area from Rifle to Basalt, if they want to keep their housing.
So, no, families cannot leave the home to their children, or gain a lot of equity with it, but it will help people obtain homes for themselves and potentially build wealth through it, said Gail Schwartz, president of Habitat for Humanity RFV, during the meeting.
This project is an example of infill housing, which is a way to create affordable housing by filling in open land connected to an already established neighborhood.
People who are chosen through the application process then help build their home to add an extra layer of pride and appreciation.
Why so opposed? Parking
Although there were the occasional comments, like one woman implying the development will bring down her property value, which is a common argument used to stop or halt affordable housing developments in cities. Most of the people at the meeting stated that they support Habitat for Humanity and their work.
Habitat is “doing God’s work,” as Vick phrased it in an op-ed complaining about the parking on Sept. 7.
As an engineer, Vick said he thought eight units were too many for the small piece of land, and decided to have a “local architect” redesign the plans to reduce the units to six.
We are just happy to have a home and would never do anything to disrespect our neighbors, said Kim Lawson, a mother who just purchased a Habitat for Humanity home in Rifle for her and her teenage daughter, Callie.
She and Callie said that the people who receive this housing are so grateful. They would not want to disrespect or trash their new neighborhood, and if they are given a certain amount of parking spots, and have too many cars, they will find out where they are allowed to park safely.
“It’s an amazing experience and it grows you as a person,” Callie said.
Parking is also a commonly used tool to halt affordable housing developments.
“Habitat has revised their parking plan which added spaces so that there are two spots for every residence and will manage parking of their residents through an Homeowners Association,” said Hannah Kllausman, director of Economic and Community Development for the city. “This parking ratio is one of the highest in the city for multi-family residential development.”
Another person who was able to purchase a home in Basalt through Habitat for Humanity RFV, Assaf Dory, attended to talk about how much Habitat has benefited him and his daughter in obtaining housing.
Dory left the meeting upset by the way people treated the members of Habitat, saying that he is blessed to have his housing and his car, and that parking has not been this much of a problem around his home, which allows for less parking per unit.
The real issue
The biggest controversy is that the cul-de-sac on Davis Drive is too small to allow parking while still allowing enough room for a fire truck to turn around. The city banned a lot of parking on Davis Drive for those safety concerns.
Eighth Street and Midland Avenue are both main roads through town and do not allow parking. Veltus Park, across Eighth Street, has some spots but doesn’t allow overnight parking. Also, that parking is for people going to the park.
Davis, Overlin and Cowdin Drives all have a lot of renters, according to the Garfield County Assessor’s website. Many homeowners also have second homes. Many renters in those neighborhoods seem to crowd the roads and driveways with vehicles. All of this already makes parking competitive on those streets.
Laurie Chase, a resident on Cowdin Drive, has publicly commented multiple times during Council meetings to voice her frustration and concerns for the new neighbors taking up more parking.
Because Habitat removed open space and trees to create more parking spots to help accommodate the concerns, the project was delayed by a month, according to Schwartz.
One of the points of this kind of housing is to have people live where they work. Ideally, the families would not require multiple cars to get around town, and the housing is also near a public transit line.
Other questions for Habitat
Setbacks, setbacks, setbacks!
The group echoed concern for how close the buildings would be to Eighth Street. The majority of the group was under the impression that the side of the building was only five feet from the sidewalk lining Eighth Street.
Vick even argues that the side setbacks are only five feet in his op-ed.
Klausman said that front setbacks in the Residential High Density Zone district are a minimum of 10 feet, and the front of the property is on Cowdin Drive.
“The side yard setback is along the Eighth Street intersection, which is required to be a minimum of five feet,” Klausman said. “It is also important to note that these setbacks are from property lines, not from the sidewalk that exists on the property. The current proposed structures are set back 11 feet or more from the side yard property boundary along Eighth Street.”
Even if Eighth Street was considered the front setback, they would still meet the requirements, she said.
Other districts in Glenwood allow for five-feet setbacks like the Mixed-Use Corridor and zero-setback allowance which means they can build right up to the lot line in places like the Mixed-Use Core, or the downtown core area.
Other concerns were focused on traffic congestion and the busy intersection. Habitat for Humanity was able to use the city commissioned traffic study that included the Meadows and development along Midland Avenue, said City Engineer Ryan Gordon.
The Traffic Impact Study addresses whether improvements are necessary to accommodate the new development and expected growth, usually for a 20-year or more period.
“For Habitat’s application, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the development with the condition that they work with City engineers to investigate options for improving safety at this intersection,” Gordon said. “This was a response to neighborhood concerns expressed during public comment. City engineering will present these recommendations to P&Z on Sept. 26 and to City Council on Oct. 5.”
Finally, the city does have plans to adjust and improve safety for drivers coming out Cowdin Drive onto Eighth Street, along with people accessing Overlin Drive to and from Midland Avenue.
“The city has heard neighborhood concerns about safety at this intersection and engineering will present their review and recommendations to P&Z and city council,” Gordon said. “Broadly, these ideas include improvements to signage, striping, road alignments and pedestrian crossings. We would invite the neighborhood and the community to participate at the P&Z and council meetings or watch the recordings if they can’t make the meeting.”
There are also plans to host a neighborhood meeting to review those ideas.
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