Guest opinion: After Blake Gate vote, moving forward should involve further community input
I did not vote to support the early opening of Blake Gate at last Thursday’s council meeting as reported incorrectly by the Glenwood Post Independent July 23. There were three councilors (not two) who opposed opening the gate at the end of this year: myself, Mayor Pro Tem Shelley Kaup and Councilor Charlie Willman.
The Bell-Rippy developers made an extra effort to accommodate the concerns of these neighborhoods when working with the city’s Planning and Zoning Board in designing this development. They had worked for months with the local community and city staff to try to discuss ways to mitigate traffic in these neighborhoods that would result from adding a 100-unit development north of Walmart and the opening of Blake Gate. I acknowledged the developers’ positive efforts to change the design of the development, and I applaud the P&Z commission for asking them to work with the neighborhood to lessen the impact of traffic.
Thursday night, the council proposed and voted to approve an early opening of the gate for the end of this year instead of after project completion with the premise that the discussion between staff and the local community could start over on means to mitigate traffic. I had difficulty voting for a much better planned development knowing that my fellow councilors did not acknowledge the local neighborhoods concerns that were already expressed through the P&Z process and through public comment with our agenda.
The vote for opening the gate included a comment from one of the councilors that the local neighborhood had to accept change. I think these citizens showed they are willing to accommodate change, and I believe the people in these neighborhoods realized they needed to work with the developer in finding solutions. But this complete disregard of the numerous comments asking the city to take care of a potentially overwhelming traffic problem on streets that do not have sidewalks and that are in deplorable conditions is unacceptable to me.
Opening Blake Gate without fixing these streets and adding sidewalks for pedestrian as they face the onslaught of additional traffic is in complete opposition to the goals of the Comprehensive Plan and the recent Strategic Plan that puts safe, walkable neighborhoods as a priority.
Everyone who lives in Glenwood Springs knows and accepts that our city straddles a highway. There is an annual increase in traffic on Grand Avenue/Highway 82 to accommodate a world class resort 45 miles away. Accepting that reality of having a highway in the middle of our community is not an invite to bring that traffic into our neighborhoods.
Blake Gate was installed to restrict traffic from moving directly from Walmart and the Roaring Fork Marketplace into local neighborhoods and through the downtown corridor on Blake Street. I voted against opening Blake Gate early because we had not resolved the concerns of the community. There were numerous suggestions on how to help everyone affecting by this opening, and time and money is needed to allow staff to implement some improvements to accommodate any change in traffic patterns. The developers were ready to invest into those improvements.
I believe the priority in determining policy is listening to and understanding the impacts that our decisions may make on the people in our community and finding ways to address those concerns. Since some of my fellow councilors weren’t willing to listen to and engage with these community comments during the approval of the development, it does not make me feel secure that this council would take the effort to listen to another round of community input sessions for the next chapter in opening Blake Gate.
Paul Stepp is city councilor for Ward 4 in Glenwood Springs.
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