Glenwood Springs mayor column: Vote ‘no’ to making West Glenwood a warehouse district

Jonathan Godes
Glenwood Springs mayor

There has been a slew of letters to the PI lately and comments on social media opposing the annexation of 480 Donegan. “Reject this plan and let us all start over” is the ask. Some say that they could maybe support it, if only it had a day care/senior center/retirement housing or some other specific amenity. A letter last week stated “without annexation, the 480 Donegan Road development will not happen.” Commenters say that if voters reject the development, the Diemoz Family, developer and members of the West Glenwood Pasture group will be able to come together to find a brand new plan that pleases everyone. Or, failing that, the land will remain a fenced-off pasture forever.

Neither of these options are a reality. If the annexation fails, the land will become a warehouse district under county control. This approval has development rights vested by Garfield County and cannot be challenged if the voters repeal the city’s annexation. Instead of transforming West Glenwood, we immediately seal its fate in becoming a less livable, industrial center. Regardless of the hopes and wishes of the immediate neighbors, this land will not stay a pasture. Your choice on Issue B does not include a pasture. The choice is warehouse or residential.

According to traffic studies, a warehouse district would increase traffic more than the proposed residential development. Idling tractor-trailers create harmful exhaust fumes and would be permitted to unload under bright flood lights 24 hours a day, seven days a week. According to the recent Urban Renewal Authority’s study, the mall and surrounding area meets the federal government’s definition of “blighted.” Building warehouses means no new park, no new fire station, no 60 deed-restricted affordable housing units, no new bike lanes and sidewalks, and no opportunity for residents to have a voice in the property’s master planning process.

A warehouse district is disastrous for the neighborhood, and kills any chance of a significant mall redevelopment. No investor will see a decrepit, zombie-like mall next to a warehouse district as a worthy investment. It is hard enough with a blighted designation and an unmotivated owner. There is a reason that the mall has fallen out of contract five times in the last three years.

The current annexation of 480 and potential redevelopment of the mall presents the greatest opportunity for all of Glenwood. R2 envisions a total redevelopment with a gradual mix of townhomes, apartments, mixed-use residential and retail, and a grocery store. Make no mistake, 480 Donegan is legally bound to the annexation agreement and cannot move forward if the mall does not get redeveloped, regardless of the owner.

Former Planning and Zoning commissioners (Marco Dehm and Sumner Schachter) denied the original application, yet have now strongly endorsed the significantly revised proposal. It is a rare thing when those most knowledgeable about land use (P&Z), the housing crisis (Housing Commission), the business community (Chamber of Commerce), elected leaders (City Council), the Latino community (Voces Unidas de las Montanas) and the Post’s Editorial Board all agree that this will be a great for Glenwood and recommend a “no” vote. Thus far there are no community groups that have come out against the annexation.

A “no” vote on Issue B is a vote of possibility and revitalization. It is a vote of “no” to a warehouse district and semi-truck traffic, and it is a vote of “no” to a continued zombie mall. As always, call me at 970-379-4248 if you are undecided and would like to know more about the community good a “no” vote would allow.

Jonathan Godes is mayor of Glenwood Springs.

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