Guest opinion: ‘No’ on Question B will preserve opportunities for affordable housing, and for renewal of West Glenwood Mall

Shelley Kaup

The city of Glenwood is facing a decision on the future of West Glenwood with the vote to repeal Ordinance 8-2021 for the annexation of the 480 Donegan property. A “yes” vote will reverse the city’s approval to annex the property and oversee development.

Garfield County would then oversee the permit process of commercial facilities that may or may not be compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods and do not meet the needs of our city. A “no” vote will allow the property to annex into the city, apply for residential development under city regulations and be subject to additional public approval processes.

Approval of the annexation was the result of over seven months of public process between the developer and the city staff, Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council. Many hours of public comment were heard and hundreds of email comments guided the final approved Annexation Agreement.

The developer worked to revise the proposal in response to the community comment, by meeting the recommendations made by Planning and Zoning Commission as well as requirements by City Council.

These include the following:

  • Direct access from the new neighborhood to Highway 6 to the south through the existing mall property, reducing traffic that will use Donegan or Mel Ray Road.
  • Emergency evacuation plans, infrastructure and improvements must be in place and operational before occupancy of any units.
  • A mix of apartments, live/work units and for-sale townhomes, including 60 affordable housing units.
  • Two acres of public space including open space and parks and land for a future fire station.
  • Annexation of the county roads including maintenance and safety improvement to those roads and much-needed sidewalks.
  • Emergency evacuation plans are being developed and awaiting approval by CDOT and FHWA, with the plan to be installed this summer.

The annexation is simply the first step to bring the property into the city so that development will be under city regulations. Next steps will include master planning for the property as well as final development approvals, which will include more public process and negotiation.

It would be a huge loss to the city to overturn the annexation and allow development under the current county approvals. The property is within the city’s urban boundary and should be developed as part of the city of Glenwood Springs.

We have heard many comments about the carrying capacity of our city, infrastructure, water and traffic. These concerns are taken very seriously by our city public works, planning department and council as we plan for the future. The infrastructure in West Glenwood can support the development proposed. New emergency evacuation plans will allow safe and direct access to Interstate 70 for the area, while restricting incoming traffic on the highways, which can clog our escape routes. This has been shown to be an effective strategy with the recent closures of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon.

The most sustainable development and growth is that which occurs within the urban growth boundary where infrastructure already exists. Property outside of the urban growth area, such as wildlife habitat, watersheds and natural landscapes, are then respected and maintained.

We do not stop growth by rejecting it within our urban area. We simply push it farther away — which increases sprawl, needs for new expanded infrastructure, traffic and other negative impacts on the environment. The annexation keeps development within the city’s urban boundaries where infrastructure and services are available.

We do not maintain the character of Glenwood Springs by closing the door to new and denser development. We become exclusive and stagnant. What kind of a community are we if we say to our workforce, “Teach our children, care for our sick, repair our homes, protect our neighborhoods, but you are not welcome to live here.”

This is not who we are. Glenwood Springs is where I work and raised my family; it is the city which I have grown to love. We live, work and build community together by being welcoming. I hope that other young families will have the opportunities to live and work here. This does not mean we accept all development, but growth that is well-thought-out and meets the needs of our community is needed for our workforce.

The 480 Donegan annexation met these criteria by listening to Planning and Zoning, Council recommendations and the neighborhood concerns to adjust their development and better align it with the needs of the city.

Growth and change are difficult. However, I hope we do not pass up this opportunity for new homes for our residents, workers and retirees. We need to annex the 480 Donegan property into the city so that we can make sure it is a development that best meets the needs of our community.

A vote of “no” on Ballot Question B will allow us to work together to make this a positive development for the city and West Glenwood Springs.

Shelley Kaup is an at-large member of Glenwood Springs City County. These opinions are hers alone and do not represent the City Council as a whole.

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