Guest opinion: Vote yes to repeal and avoid annexation’s impact on Glenwood Springs

Zac Parsons
Guest column

Many locals still recall the last time an ill-advised annexation was attempted and soundly rejected by Glenwood Springs residents. Arguments for 480 Donegan could be mistaken for the echoes of the failed annexation of the 149-lot Red Feather Ridge development proposal in 2003. But just like 2003, the alternative to annexation is better.

When the mayor wrote don’t turn West Glenwood into a warehouse district, it had to be hyperbole, at best. If annexation does not proceed, existing county approval for the property already limits the use of the property to 15 buildings with uses consistent with the Commercial/Limited (C/L) Zoning. C/L in Garfield County provides for a limited range of commercial uses needed to meet the shopping needs of residents in the adjacent neighborhoods. Businesses are to be oriented to the neighborhood and compatible with surrounding residential uses. Based on the mailer and website from R2, those new jobs and businesses in the 15 commercial buildings seem much better than squeezing 700 people into 300 residential units with some as tall as 53 feet.

But what about those arguments we keep hearing about affordable housing? Based on how expensive the rash of newly built units have been, the 236 unrestricted market priced units will not be affordable or attainable. The mayor and City Council could have tried to broker a deal for 100% affordable housing, or some sort of public private partnership, or any number or alternatives; they held all the power in the negotiation, and they gave it away to a developer from Cincinnati.

As you may recall, during the City Council’s annexation approval meeting, the number of units being considered and debated was less than 300 units until former councilperson Davis and the mayor forced a compromise to squeeze more people into this development. When it comes to their annexation decision, the city government failed the citizens of Glenwood Springs. They should have required a comprehensive master plan as well as a properly modeled evacuation plan to be in place prior to any annexation approval.

Remember the old adage garbage in, garbage out? It means if you feed inaccurate data into your assumptions and models you get inaccurate results. Basing decisions on inaccurate data is a recipe for many of the problems citizens keep seeing. City Council is relying on a couple of surveys to demonstrate support for their decisions, but there were no controls in the surveys to ensure people could not respond as many times as they wanted (private internet browsers could have unlimited responses). The accuracy of the results our councilmembers keep touting is beyond questionable since the sample was both manipulatable and not representative of the population.

Speaking of bad data, when it comes to the traffic study being touted by R2 and some of City Council, garbage is a nice word. The traffic study by Kimley-Horn and Associates suffers from sampling bias. The traffic counts were performed on a Wednesday, which folks from Glenwood Springs know is both the least busy day of the week as well as an early release day for the schools, with noticeably different traffic patterns than other weekdays. Moreover, the study relied on ITE models that are accurate for big cities, but have been shown to lose accuracy and need adjustment in rural areas where people must drive to access employment, schools, groceries, etc. It appears there was no internal validation conducted to ensure appropriate adjustment and accuracy.

What about the mall redevelopment and the access we keep being told is part of this issue? Unless it is squeezed in to the east of the mall between the building and the properties on Mel Ray Road, access through the easement on the mall property can only happen if someone redevelops the mall property. However, there is nothing in the annexation agreement that would force the mall to be redeveloped. By R2’s own admission at the Imagine Glenwood forum this month, they are not under contract with the mall at all!

Many promises have been made about the possibilities for the mall, but few of the bells and whistles are actually in a signed contract or attached to this annexation agreement. If our elected officials’ comments are accurate, it’s only because they are apparently relying on the handshake and pray method of governance. Don’t be fooled by flashy marketing, the mall can be redeveloped on its own regardless of how the annexation vote unfolds.

Our elected officials seem content finding ways to fundamentally change our town and to make this place more expensive for the people who live here. In the last three years our City Council pushed a: sales tax attempt; airport tax attempt; lodging tax attempt; attractions tax attempt; massive water & sewer rate increase; and fire & emergency services tax increase. The reason to consider the city’s financial situation is because, if approved, annexation will require the city to come up with money it doesn’t have for a new fire station, park amenities and maintenance, as well as infrastructure maintenance. Glenwood can’t afford more unfunded obligations.

The conclusion: Vote yes on B to stop the poorly planned annexation.

Zac Parsons is an attorney and fifth-generation resident of western Colorado. He lives in Glenwood Springs.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.