Garfield County changes Cattle Creek zoning |

Garfield County changes Cattle Creek zoning

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” After hours of debate, Garfield County commissioners on Tuesday approved a zoning change that could result in hundreds of homes being stripped away from a proposed plan for 282 acres south of Glenwood Springs.

After making several proposals that did not pass, commissioners finally agreed to revoke a portion of a planned unit development for the Cattle Creek Crossing property, except for a conservation easement on the property. The vote included a change to rezone the property to the second-highest urban density allowed in the county, which means the 979 housing units that were initially proposed for the property would have to be reduced to somewhere between 400 and 600 housing units.

The commissioners’ vote also means Related WestPac, the company behind the Cattle Creek Crossing development, must submit a new planned-unit development for the property.

Commissioners John Martin and Tresi Houpt voted in favor of the plan, while Commissioner Larry McCown voted against it.

Debate over the future of the property, which included the possibility of zoning it to the highest urban density allowed in the county, dominated much of the commissioners’ meeting Monday.

Rocky Shepard, project manager for Related WestPac, said he was glad that the issue was resolved after several appearances before the commissioners about the zoning of the property.

“We will have to re-evaluate our plan and decide whether we just want to fit our plan to the zoning,” Shepard said.

Related WestPac’s sketch plan for the 282-acre property called for 979 housing units in 474 buildings, with at least 10 percent of the housing units designated as affordable housing.

Commissioners came to the decision after they each proposed their own options for the future of the property. After several motions did not pass, the commissioners went into a closed-door meeting to receive legal advice. About 10 minutes later, commissioners came back and voted to revoke the property’s Planned Unit Development.

County commissioners unanimously agreed to return to the rezoning process in December based on a request by Related WestPac. The company made the request after some area residents contended county commissioners rezoned the property in April to the highest urban density allowed without providing proper public notice.

About two weeks later, dozens of area residents sounded off to the Garfield County Planning Commission in opposition to high density for the 282-acre property.

However, planning commission members eventually voted 3-2 in favor of rezoning the property to the highest urban density allowed in the county after a lengthy debate about affordable housing in the county.

In January, commissioners began a hearing on the rezoning, but decided to delay it until Tuesday because McCown was out of town.

County staff recommended the property should be rezoned to be consistent with its existing high-density designation in the county’s comprehensive plan. County planning staff said the development would directly address the “county’s housing shortage and affordability issues where density can equate to lower price for free market units.”

When Commissioner John Martin opened the public hearing on the issue Tuesday and asked who planned to testify on the matter, almost every person in the commissioners’ meeting room shot an arm up into the air. At least 25 people signed up to offer public comment on the issue, but only a few supported high-density development of the property.

The commissioners’ vote on the issue came after almost three hours of contentious debate over affordable housing, with many people saying high urban densities do not equal affordable housing.

“Rezoning this land to urban density is, I think, very dangerous for this community,” said Amy Marsh, a resident of the area for almost 30 years, citing concerns like water issues and traffic congestion. “I urge you not to rezone it.”

Marsh’s comments followed those of about 13 others, almost all of whom opposed adopting the highest density.

Dot Mulligan said such a density would be “suicide.”

“I would like you to leave this at the lowest density possible and leave the urban densities to the cities,” Mulligan said.

Dorie Hunt, who lives next to the property, which has been the subject of several development proposals, said high-density zoning on the property would affect her life greatly.

“However, I watched the developers come and go over the last eight years. Every time it has gotten worse,” Hunt said. “I think [Related WestPac is] the most responsible and most conscientious and has the best plan of all the developers so far. I still have a problem looking outside my home and seeing 979 homes.”

Hunt asked commissioners to make sure Related WestPac followed through on its promises for the property.

Gary Gardner, a residential real estate appraiser, told commissioners if there is a company to help develop affordable housing in the area, Related WestPac is the right company “to roll the dice with.”

“I think you owe to everybody in the valley who says we need affordable housing, you need to sit down with Related WestPac to see how best to get that done,” Gardner said.

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