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Riparian setbacks, Bill Rippy development could dominate Glenwood Springs council discussion Thursday

Glenwood City Council is slated to consider the revised Bell Rippy apartment project site plan and rezoning proposal as well as a riparian setback amendment during their regular meeting Thursday.

Bell Rippy

Dating as far back as 2017, developers have proposed building multi-family housing in a vacant lot on the south end of Glenwood Springs.

Early site proposals drew ire from residents living nearby, largely because of the development’s potential impact on traffic in the surrounding area, which is primarily single-family homes.

“I’ve heard this developer has made some significant changes to their site plan and how it will interface with current traffic patterns,” Mayor Jonathan Godes said. “If (Thursday’s conversation) is anything like our previous conversations, it could center on the impact to Palmer and Blake avenues.”

The development proposal includes six three-story buildings with 38 one-bedroom units and 62 two-bedroom units adjacent to Palmer Avenue between 26th Street and Blake Avenue.

During a June 8 digital conference with members of the public, city staff and Bell Rippy developers, Triumph Development West, LLC, residents applauded some of the site plan change proposals, especially in regard to “Option C.” 

Option C repurposes a portion of Palmer Avenue between 26th Street and Blake Avenue as a bicycle and pedestrian path, with access for emergency vehicles only.

City Council could review Option C, which city staff is recommending with conditions, on Thursday as well as rezoning the proposed development area from Residential High-Density to Residential Transitional.

Riparian setback

Two years in the making, the first reading of a proposal to amend municipal code for riparian setbacks has garnered rebuke from some local property owners.

Unanimously recommended by the Glenwood Springs River Commission, the amendment is intended to prevent the loss or removal of riparian vegetation and improve water quality by eliminating the application of hazardous chemicals in the proposed 35-foot setback zone.

“For a community that bases a lot of our identity on water … (the commission) is saying we should have the healthiest, most pristine waterways possible,” Godes said, explaining the amendment was originally suggested by the commission in 2018. Council’s goal Thursday goal is to listen to the commission and the Roaring Fork Conservancy (RFC), who helped inform the commission’s recommendation, present their ideas for the setback as well as hear the affected land owner’s input before making a decision, Godes said.

Gary Vick, a river-front property owner and spokesperson for a group of landowners dubbed Friends of the Roaring Fork River, said he plans to speak against the amendment.

“(Glenwood Springs Municipal Code) does not currently restrict what we can and can’t do with plant life,” Vick said, explaining the amendment as written could prevent land owners from planting grass or trimming vegetation within the setback. “At the very least, we would like to ask the council for some clarity on the amendment.”

Additionally, Vick said he was concerned the regulation could significantly decrease home values without any measurable benefit to the city.

“The (setback) proponents have not quantified any gains that would be made as a result of this amendment,” Vick said. “Before the city takes property rights from homeowners, they need to show a benefit that far exceeds the cost of lost property value.”

Roaring Fork Conservancy Executive Director Rick Lofaro said the amendment would ensure the river’s health for decades to come without affecting current property owners.

“We work with all the counties and municipalities within our Roaring Fork Valley watershed area, which is about 1,500 square miles,” Lofaro said. “Many jurisdictions and municipalities in the watershed have adopted riparian setback protections.”

Setback protections provide a buffer zone between developed areas and the river habitat, he explained.

“The messy vitality along the river is a healthy component of it,” Lofaro said. “Everything you love about the river goes away if all the riparian is removed.”

The amendment is a good move for the city, residents and the river, he said.

“We’re trying to make this a positive thing going into the future,” Lofaro said, “and not compromise, penalize, challenge or even get involved with private property.” 

ifredregill@postindependent.com