Guest column: 480 Donegan vote a choice to stand by or participate in Glenwood Springs’ future

Marco Dehm
Glenwood Springs City Council member
Marco Dehm.

This May’s special election gives citizens of Glenwood Springs an opportunity to approve or reject the 480 Donegan annexation behind the West Glenwood Mall by voting on Ballot Question B.

As City Council’s newest member, I feel compelled to share processes and background about 480 Donegan. Prior to my appointment to City Council, I served on the City’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) for nearly two decades, much of that time as the board chair. As a member of the P&Z, I was tasked with assessing and making recommendations about development proposals based on their compliance with the City’s Development Code and Comprehensive Plan, including the 480 Donegan annexation.

When the P&Z formulates an opinion about any project, it considers the developer’s proposal, city staff recommendations and public input. The 480 Donegan project was the subject of numerous staff and community meetings and negotiations, including three P&Z public hearings. This application, as presented to P&Z, offered what I saw as a grossly oversized apartment complex with little public benefit beyond simply providing additional housing for the community. Ultimately, P&Z voted to recommend denial of this application due to various land use and Comprehensive Plan shortcomings. We did, however, provide the developer with over a dozen suggestions to improve the project before presenting it to City Council for consideration.

The developer, R2, and the Diemoz family did something I have never experienced in my 17 years on P&Z. They took nearly all P&Z suggestions and fully incorporated them into their revised proposal to council. They reduced the density from 415 units to 272 and included 40 desperately needed medium density town homes to buffer the single-family neighborhood from higher density apartments, as well as 60 affordable deed-restricted housing units, the largest amount of affordable housing this community has ever seen in one development. They also included the dedication of a playground area, a 2-acre lot for a much-needed new fire station and bike lane, sidewalk and street improvements. A newly designed main egress through the mall property and two new access ramps onto I-70 answered fire evacuation concerns.

The currently approved 480 Donegan annexation is a textbook example of “smart growth.” It is one of the best projects I have seen in my time on P&Z. Smart growth puts a higher population density near existing infrastructure, services and public transportation. Smart growth also saves taxpayers money — it is much more expensive to extend water and sewer pipes and electrical lines to far-flung locations, as is common in urban sprawl developments.

I am most certainly not in favor of filling every square inch of Glenwood Springs with housing, retail and any other imaginable land uses. However, when a rare proposal like 480 Donegan comes along that offers so much to the community (smart growth, affordable and attainable housing, open space, land dedication and a sales tax generator), we must ask ourselves how best to integrate such a development and how to mitigate any undesirable impacts. With the cooperation of the developer, framed by the structure of our current city code, we achieve this balance.

Interestingly, a couple of months after the approval of 480 Donegan, the P&Z and City Council reviewed and ultimately approved another 300 housing-unit proposal. Some could easily argue this would have similar impacts on the city’s infrastructure and public safety. One would think similar voices of opposition as to 480 Donegan would be heard, but to our surprise, not one comment from the community was received during the review and approval process of that application. 480 Donegan seems to be more of a neighborhood issue than a broader communitywide concern.

No matter the outcome in this May’s election, one thing is certain — this land will not remain a pasture. For the citizens of Glenwood Springs, the vote on Ballot Question B comes down to this choice:

Have ample control over a residential development with affordable and attainable housing, public open space and a sales tax-generating commercial component and be able to mitigate all its impacts.


Be bystanders while a large, already county-approved warehouse district with limited lighting, sign and noise ordinances, and, most importantly, increased heavy truck traffic most hours of the day, operates in the neighborhood.

I prefer to have a say in this development, so the choice is clear — vote no on Ballot Question B.

Marco Dehm is a Glenwood Springs City Council member. He was appointed in 2021 after serving on the Planning and Zoning Commission for nearly 20 years.

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