Guest column: 480 Donegan vote to choose to stand by or participate in the future of Glenwood Springs

Marco Dehm.

The May Special Election gives the citizens of Glenwood Springs the opportunity to approve or oppose the annexation of 480 Donegan behind the West Glenwood Mall by voting on Question B of the ballot.

As a new member of City Council, I feel compelled to share the processes and background of 480 Donegan. Prior to my appointment to city council, I served on the city’s Planning and Zoning (P&Z) commission for nearly two decades, mostly as council chair. As a member of P&Z, I was responsible for evaluating and making recommendations on development proposals based on their compliance with the development code and the city’s overall plan, including the annexation of 480 Donegan.

When the P&Z formulates an opinion on a project, it takes into account the proposal of the developer, the recommendations of the city staff and the comments of the public. The 480 Donegan project has been the subject of numerous meetings and negotiations with staff and the community, including three P&Z public hearings. This application, as presented to P&Z, offered what I considered to be an extremely oversized apartment complex with few public benefits beyond simply providing additional housing to the community. Ultimately, P&Z voted to recommend denial of this application due to various shortcomings in land use and the overall plan. We did, however, provide the developer with more than a dozen suggestions for improving the project before presenting it to city council for consideration.



The developer, R2, and the Diemoz family did something I had never experienced in my 17 years at P&Z. They took almost all of P&Z’s suggestions and fully incorporated them into their revised proposal to the board. They reduced the density from 415 units to 272 and included 40 mid-density townhouses desperately needed to protect the single-family neighborhood from higher-density apartments, as well as 60 restricted-deed affordable housing, the most affordable housing that this community has never seen in a development. They also included the dedication of a playground, 2 acres of land for a much needed new fire station and bike path, sidewalk and street improvements. A newly designed main exit through the mall property and two new on-ramps on I-70 addressed fire evacuation concerns.

The currently approved 480 Donegan Annex is a classic example of ‘smart growth’. This is one of the best projects I’ve seen in my time on P&Z. Smart growth places higher population density close to existing infrastructure, services and public transport. Smart growth also saves taxpayers money – it is much more expensive to extend water and sewer lines and power lines to remote locations, as is common in urban developments. ‘urban sprawl.



I’m certainly not in favor of filling every square inch of Glenwood Springs with housing, retail, and every other land use imaginable. However, when a rare proposition like 480 Donegan comes along and offers so much to the community (smart growth, affordable and accessible housing, open space, land allocation and sales tax generator), we have to ask ourselves how best to integrate such a development. and how to mitigate any unwanted impact. With the cooperation of the developer, framed by the structure of our current city code, we achieve this balance.

Interestingly, a few months after 480 Donegan was approved, P&Z and City Council considered and ultimately approved another 300-unit proposal. Some might easily argue that it would have similar impacts on the city’s infrastructure and public safety. You would think that voices of opposition similar to those at 480 Donegan would be heard, but to our surprise, no community feedback was received during the review and approval process for this application. 480 Donegan appears to be more of a neighborhood issue than a broader community-wide concern.

Regardless of the outcome of the May election, one thing is certain: this land will not remain pasture. For the citizens of Glenwood Springs, voting on Question B of the ballot comes down to this choice:

Have sufficient control over a residential development with affordable and accessible housing, open public spaces and a sales tax generating commercial component and be able to mitigate all of its impacts.

Or?

Be spectators while a large warehouse district already county-approved with limited lighting, signage and noise ordinances and, most importantly, increased heavy truck traffic most hours of the day, operates in the neighborhood.

I prefer to have a say in this development, so the choice is clear – vote no on Question B of the ballot.

Marco Dehm is a member of Glenwood Springs City Council. He was appointed in 2021 after serving on the Planning and Zoning Commission for nearly 20 years.


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