Red Feather Ridge rejection a job half done
On behalf of Citizens Voices for Responsible Growth (CVRG), thanks again to everyone who made the recent Red Feather Ridge campaign so successful. Clearly, something about this issue touched a nerve, creating a true community consensus that overwhelmingly rejected (by a 3-1 margin) the annexation of the proposed Red Feather Ridge project.
CVRG’s steering committee recently met for the first time since the election to reflect on what the vote meant and to discuss what, if anything, our next steps should be. As tempting as it is to simply sit back and savor our success, we concluded that our job is still only half complete.
In fact, from the moment this group came together in January, nearly all of us saw the Red Feather vote as just the first step in what needs to be at least a two-part process.
The second, and arguably more important, step is to put some teeth into the city’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) so that the next developer’s tempting proposal doesn’t bring us back to the very same situation.
To prevent that from happening, we believe that city voters should have the right to approve any changes to the Urban Growth Boundary. The future of our community is too important, and the cost of badly planned growth too high, to allow such important issues to be decided by a simple one-vote majority of the City Council.
We believe the city’s growth boundaries should only be expanded after a full and open process of citizen consultation, in accordance with the city’s comprehensive plan. And because city annexations affect those living in the surrounding county, there also should be consultation between city and county officials before changes are approved.
The lesson of Red Feather Ridge is that city boundary changes need to be carefully and proactively planned. Changing the UGB in response to a specific development proposal is not planning. It is reacting to someone else’s agenda, and it is a recipe for haphazard, piecemeal growth.
The city’s planning department recently held several meetings seeking ideas for revising the comprehensive plan. The light turnout no doubt had something to do with the recent heat wave and the time of day, and citizens’ busy, busy summer calendars.
But it probably also suggests that the city residents are quite satisfied with the plan’s vision of preserving our small-town character, maintaining a compact urban form and a well-defined border between the city and surrounding rural areas.
Our city’s most important planning document might perhaps benefit from a bit of upgrading and tweaking, and we look forward to hearing what ideas emerge from this process in the coming weeks. But the basic message seems to be “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The one change we believe is needed, whether in the comprehensive plan or by a separate city ordinance, is to require that future changes to the UGB be subjected to a vote of the citizens of Glenwood Springs.
Here’s hoping that our City Council will show some leadership and seize this opportunity to suggest just such a change for consideration by voters in the upcoming November election.
The City Council was wise enough to put the Red Feather Ridge annexation to a vote. Once again, the City Council has a chance to show its leadership by letting voters decide the merits of this important issue, preferably without forcing the community to undertake yet another citizen-initiated referendum.
– Stephen Bershenyi is a lifelong resident of Glenwood Springs. His family raised cattle on a ranch on Dry Park Road from 1948-1990.
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