As I See It
Caught in the crossfire between too many people coming into the area and not enough money for the infrastructure to serve them, the Glenwood Springs City Council finds itself severely constrained in making decisions for the future of the community. Specifically I am talking about Red Feather Ridge and the Glenwood Springs Airport.
Most everyone who already lives here is opposed to more residential development around Glenwood Springs. Over the last ten years, the city’s population has increased nearly 20 percent, and people don’t want to see that continue.
But, if you look around, you will see that Glenwood Springs is not alone. Nearly every city in Colorado (and for that matter, throughout most of the United States) is growing at least that much, if not more.
It all goes back to the post-World War II Baby Boom with many families of four to six children, which set the stage for more than doubling the country’s population over the past 60 years.
During the past couple of decades, the U.S. population has grown 25 percent, largely due to immigration and the traditional tendency of immigrants to have large families.
The unavoidable conclusion is that every year there are more and more people seeking homes, and unless we put the brakes on immigration the rate of population growth will continue to escalate. And when these people move into our communities, they bring their children who need schools and their cars which need roads.
When Red Feather Ridge (formerly Four Mile Ranch) reappeared on the scene, it presented two choices, both of them undesirable. The developer was proposing 199 medium-priced homes concentrated in a cluster plan, leaving much of the area as open space. On the surface of it, clustering is a sound design concept, but in this location it will significantly increase traffic congestion. True, the developers have offered to pay a large portion of the cost of a traffic circle at the intersection of Four Mile Road and Midland Avenue, but the impact of the traffic generated by Red Feather Ridge will reach far beyond that intersection.
The alternative to the cluster plan, which has received City Council approval (although that approval is being challenged by the public), would be 54 more-expensive homes on two-acre lots covering the entire development area, with very little in the way of open space. This would produce far less traffic, but would be an uncreative and destructive use of the land.
The other issue at the south end of town that is on City Council’s plate is what’s the best use for the airport site. Two alternatives have been presented by the Ad Hoc Committee appointed by City Council to study the question.
One would use the area for 200 or more moderately priced housing units, and the other would use it for a new and larger high school and a variety of athletic fields.
As beneficial as either of these uses of the airport site would be for a large number of people in the community over continuing its use as an airport (which serves only a handful of people), both have the drawback of the large amount of traffic they would generate.
The only way this traffic impact could be mitigated would be by the construction of a southerly extension of Midland Avenue connecting to Highway 82 with a bridge across the Roaring Fork River. Here’s where the money issue shows up. The estimated cost of this extension and bridge is somewhere between $6 million and $10 million dollars, and probably closer to the larger figure.
So, City Council is caught on the horns of a dilemma. There is a need for 200 additional moderately priced housing units in Glenwood Springs, and there are two places where they could be built. The problem is either one will generate a major traffic problem which can be corrected only by the expenditure of millions of dollars which the city does not have.
From the traffic standpoint, it makes little difference whether the cars from 200 more homes come onto Midland Avenue and the Sunlight bridge from Four Mile Road or from Airport Road. Either one is going to create a major traffic snarl trying to get across the Sunlight bridge, and especially with the morning elementary school traffic trying to turn left from Midland Avenue onto Mt. Sopris Drive.
So it looks like City Council has decided to keep the airport and put the housing up Four Mile Road without a real solution to the traffic problems. This also sets a dangerous precedent for still more development up Four Mile Road, which will only make the traffic situation worse.
A far better plan would be to purchase Red Feather Ranch and keep it as open space, and to use the airport site for housing and build the Midland Avenue extension and bridge connecting to Highway 82. After all there is another far better (and far better equipped) airport just 20 miles to the west on Interstate 70. The only problem is that all this takes money which the city doesn’t have, so we’ll be forced to live with an increasingly undesirable situation for many years to come.
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This will be my 500th column — my final column in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.