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As I See It

If you exclude all the exaggerated claims, misleading statements, half-truths, and emotionalism which have been circulated by both the proponents and opponents of the Red Feather Ridge annexation in the months leading up to the June 24 mail-in election, you come down to two basic issues. They are the density of development and the financial considerations.

Taking density first, the choice is between 57 2-plus-acre lots covering the entire 132 acres of the development, and 148 mostly 1/6-acre lots covering approximately 40 acres, leaving 90 acres of public open space. The question to be answered is which is the better plan as it affects the citizens of Glenwood Springs.

In trying to answer that question we need to consider the long-range impact of the growth projected for Glenwood Springs and its surroundings. It is estimated that the population of Garfield County will increase by 20,000-25,000 over the next two decades. That equates to about 8,000 households. If all that development takes place on 2-acre lots, it will occupy about 18,000 acres of currently undeveloped land (including an allowance for streets). On the other hand, using cluster development with 1/6-acre lots would reduce the land required for 8,000 homes to around 1500 acres, including streets – less than 1/10 of the space taken up by 2-acre homesites.



Economic considerations have to be of major concern to the taxpayers of Glenwood Springs. Traffic growth from recent developments up Four Mile Road and around the airport has created congestion at Four Mile Road and Midland Avenue that has forced the city to construct a $400,000 traffic circle at that intersection with no help from Garfield County, despite the fact that a large part of that traffic comes from county residents.

Any future development up Four Mile Road, regardless of density, is going to increase traffic volumes and require additional transportation improvements on Midland Avenue and across Sunlight bridge. The question is: Who is going to pay for these costly improvements? If Red Feather Ridge remains in the county, the city doesn’t get a penny, whereas it will receive $400,000 plus $2,500 for each house if it annexes Red Feather Ridge.



In addition, the city will collect real estate taxes on the area only if it is annexed to the city. On the other hand, the school district (which receives the majority of real estate tax money) will collect from Red Feather Ridge regardless of whether it is annexed by the city, and may actually be better off if the area remains in the county. That is because homes on 2-acre lots will probably have an assessed valuation 2 to 3 times that of less expensive homes built on l/6-acre lots, while the number of school-age children per 2-acre home site will be very low because the owners are more likely to be in their 50s and 60s.

There are two other issues which have been raised in the discussion of Red Feather Ridge.

One is the claim that the higher density permitted by annexation to the city will result in affordable housing. That all depends on your definition of what constitutes “affordable housing.” What is true is that smaller homes on smaller lots will be affordable to more people than the homes on 2-acre lots.

The other issue is that open space donated to the city for parks is only going to cost the city taxpayers money to develop. This is certainly true, but it would save the taxpayers the cost of acquiring future park sites at such time as they may be needed. It can also be argued that parks in Red Feather Ridge would benefit only RFR residents, in which case they would undoubtedly remain undeveloped.

Sadly, regardless of which way we vote, we are going to get sprawl. It’s a question of whether it’s “urban” sprawl or “suburban” sprawl, and which is better for the residents of Glenwood Springs. The decision is ours.

Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.


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