Guest opinion: A counterpoint to those supporting 480 Donegan annexation

Tony Hershey

The people of Glenwood Springs should vote “yes” (Ballot Question B) on May 3 to reverse the City Council’s approval to annex yet more development to our town.

Recently, my colleague, Councilperson Shelly Kaup, wrote a lengthy column (March 25 Post Independent) supporting annexation. I respectfully disagree with Ms. Kaup and her vision of the future of our small town. She is misinformed.

480 Donegan is a massive project that would fundamentally change the nature of the neighborhood where it is proposed and have adverse effects on West Glenwood residents and our entire community. It is too big, it creates evacuation/safety issues, its location is wrong, and it generates impacts that this town cannot easily adjust to, pay for, or absorb.

Our aging infrastructure needs to be fixed before hundreds of extra cars take to our streets. Our schools are full. Is Re-1 building more?

We have one major grocery store with long lines already. How many more policeman and other services will we have to provide for all these new residents in an expanded Glenwood Springs?

We live in a geographically small town: Look out your window, and you will see mountains on three sides creating only three means of entry or (crucially) exit. And one of those is Glenwood Canyon. A natural disaster or fire could create gridlock and no means of escape.

I understand we are working on an evacuation plan (in response to this unwanted project), but the more people and vehicles we add, the more difficult any evacuation will be. And Ms. Kaup is simply wrong; the old mall is not under contract to the current developer (R2) and currently there is no guaranteed egress to Highway 6/I-70.

However, Ms. Kaup’s major argument appears to be that we need more affordable housing, but this project does not provide real affordable housing. Is “affordable” rents in the thousands of dollars? Under the current AMI (median income), monthly “affordable” rents could be $1,700-$2,100 at Donegan. How is that “affordable”?

Real “workforce” housing — built to house teachers, police officers, essential workers and medical personnel — is appropriate. Housing for Aspen workers is not.

It is unclear if any of these for-rent units are deed-restricted (i.e. you must work here). Four for-sale townhomes are; the non-free-market apartments may not be.

Regardless, 300 units, 60 plus of which may be “affordable,” is a burden not a benefit to us. Workforce housing for middle earners and essential employees is a benefit to us; housing other communities’ workers is not.

Remember, this is housing built outside the city limits that can’t be constructed unless we annex this property into our town. Basalt annexed land outside its urban growth boundary, but it was commercial (Willits). Commercial development brings income to a community, more housing with more people only brings more obligations and more costs for our current citizens.

Let’s not ruin our town with 60 plus “affordable” housing units that aren’t actually affordable and another 200 plus units that can sell at any price. Ms. Kaup claims building more housing will solve a housing shortage, but we can no more build our way out of a housing shortage than Aspen, and they have been trying to do so since the late 1970s.

I believe there is little or no support for the Donegan project beyond the walls of City Hall. Kaup and others are attempting to over-develop our small town, ruining the reasons why we live here.

If we wanted to live in Arvada or Aurora, we can move there. We have grown 20.5% since 2020, and before that it was about 3% a year; that is too much. Let’s not ruin our town to save it from an imagined lack of so-called “affordable” housing that we don’t need and don’t want. Remember a vote of “yes” on Question B means “no” to development. Vote “yes” to reject the annexation. Please vote “yes” to preserve our small town.

Tony Hershey is an elected at-large member of Glenwood Springs City Council, but the opinions expressed here are his alone and not those of City Council as a whole.

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