PI Editorial: Support annexation, then work to make West Glenwood development the best it can be

Post Independent Editorial Board

Trust is not always easy and not always natural, but sometimes it is necessary despite how uncomfortable it makes us — even when it comes to change in our community.

One such change will be decided by voters this spring when we’re asked to support or reject the annexation of property in West Glenwood as an early step in building a new multi-family residential development in the neighborhood.

Our recommendation to voters is to support the annexation and allow the development process to move forward.

The annexation was requested by the Diemoz family, longtime owners of the property, and R2 Partners, a development firm with plans to build multi-family residences in West Glenwood.

West Glenwood residents, and others from around the community, are strongly opposed to the development for a variety of reasons, but emergency egress, traffic, water availability and open space are some that come up repeatedly.

Worries about being able to evacuate in the face of a natural disaster top the list for many, and very understandably so. The Storm King and Coal Seam fires were not that long ago, and even since then other fires have occasionally threatened West Glenwood. Given one spark, the right amount of wind on any given day and any one of those could have been disastrous for those who live over there, given the lack of easy access out of the area.

And further development means more traffic daily. Even those of us who don’t live there have been stuck in the roundabouts at the I-70 interchange when cars are snarled in South Canyon.

Access to significant parkland also is a concern. While some open space exists, it doesn’t have a Two Rivers Park or Sayre Park.

Finally, the future of our water supply has come up repeatedly as well in conversations and meetings with West Glenwood residents, and many others throughout our community. Clean water is always a concern in the West, especially given the fires and debris slides of our recent history.

Now, the good news on water is that Glenwood Springs typically produces 3.25 million gallons a day in the summer (winter is lower than that), but our water plant has capacity to process up to 8.65 million gallons daily if it was needed. Even more importantly, the city’s water rights provide access to just under 13 million gallons per day from Grizzly and No Name Creeks. In other words, it’s very unlikely we will hit our capacity anytime soon.

But that’s just a small part of everything encompassed in the above concerns. We could write thousands more words to try to address in detail all of them, but we will instead make an observation. Each one is valid and very real, and they’re also true for practically all of Glenwood Springs.

Does that mean we should expect nothing to improve? Should we just say no to all future growth?

To many people, these are not outlandish questions, and some might argue this is the hard reality we face.

But if the answer is no to all growth, then the answer is also no to teachers, no to police officers, no to nurses and no to many other professionals who not only live in our community but make our communities better.

This brings up a big concern that hasn’t gotten nearly the consideration it deserves from those opposed to the West Glenwood annexation: our crisis-level housing market.

Rent has grown by leaps and bounds the past three years, and new construction has not kept up with demand for even longer than that. Will the 300 units proposed for West Glenwood fix that problem? Absolutely not, but it’s a step in the right direction. It also could end up being the canary in the development coal mine — will Glenwood Springs become anti-growth or will it meet the greatest challenge our community faces with collaboration and success?

We think this is a great opportunity to not just make it easier for a few hundred more people to live closer to where they work, but to also work together and create a better future for not just West Glenwood but the entire community.

We’ve already seen signs of this throughout the project. Developers have put forward $100,000 for Glenwood Springs and other governmental partners to craft an emergency evacuation plan. They’ve also offered to donate land for a fire station and set aside 1 acre of property to be developed as multiple small parks throughout the property.

But there’s still more that could be done. Some residents we’ve spoken with would prefer a larger park as opposed to multiple small parks — that seems like a very reasonable accommodation to make. We know there are many more points where compromise and collaboration are possible, and we trust that the process will help support and foster that for both sides.

To get there, however, requires voters to support the annexation on May 3. If that happens, we’d ask the Diemoz family and R2 Partners to keep trying to accommodate concerned residents where possible. And it means we’d ask those concerned residents to think about the issue more deeply than just “no.” Offer each other the room to imagine more than just one outcome.

The Post Independent editorial board members are Editor Peter Baumann, Managing Editor/Senior Reporter John Stroud, and community representatives Mark Fishbein and Danielle Becker.

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