Plan seeks answers for Glenwood’s future |

Plan seeks answers for Glenwood’s future

John ColsonGlenwood Springs correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Should Grand Avenue in downtown Glenwood Springs be turned into a veritable river of vehicles moving through a canyon of buildings, with store fronts reoriented to face away from the avenue, looking either east or west?Should the old Denver & Rio Grande Western rail right of way through town be converted to a “cut-and-cover” bypass – essentially a tunnel to carry trucks and cars to a new bridge and intersection with Interstate 70? Or should it be used as the route for an elevated roadway to permit pedestrians easier access to the Roaring Fork River?Should the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport be redeveloped as housing, park facilities or something else, or left alone?These and other questions became debating points at a meeting Tuesday night, where more than 60 local residents embarked on a 10-month process to update the Glenwood Springs Comprehensive Plan. The workshop, at the city’s Community Center on Wulfsohn Road, was conducted by a Boulder consultant, Winston Associates.Some of those present gave affirmative answers to the questions outlined above, as they tried to envision what the city can or should look like in another 20 years, when the population is predicted to reach as high as 15,000.The majority held to the long-standing community value that maintaining Glenwood’s “small town character” should be the top priority of the city government, according to a “clicker pad” survey. Participants were asked to respond to questions using an electronic keypad device that beamed the answers to a computer and displayed them on a screen.Nearly half of those in the room felt that providing affordable housing for the city’s entire workforce is the most serious problem facing Glenwood, but a third of the participants felt that there are other needs that should take precedence.Concerning traffic congestion on Grand Avenue, a perennial problem that has vexed city planners for decades, 58 percent of respondents said the city should come up with a solution, any solution, and implement it, regardless of the difficulty, the impact on tax rates or other potential stumbling blocks.But when asked to rank their preferred solution to the Grand Avenue conundrum, a majority of those in the room split almost equally over converting the old railroad right of way into a local serving street; widening Midland Avenue so it would better serve as a bypass; or trying the option of reorienting the businesses along Grand Avenue in the downtown core, reducing the conflicts between through traffic and those doing business in the downtown shops.”You guys didn’t help at all,” joked Jeff Winston, head of the consulting firm. “You’re totally divided on the issue.” He added that he did not really expect the group to solve the problems presented at the meeting, merely to come up with ideas.Winston said the comp plan is an expression of the community’s interest in having “a future that is our future, rather than just being victimized by others.”He told the assembled crowd that as things now stand, roughly 30 percent of those who work in Glenwood Springs also live here, while 68 percent drive here from somewhere else to their jobs.Grand Avenue, which was a primary focus of the meeting, now carries 30,000 vehicles per day, a number that could grow to 50,000 per day by the year 2030, given a growth rate of 2 percent annually, with a concurrent increase in the number of traffic lights.The Midland Avenue bypass route, Winston said, currently carries roughly 10,000 vehicles per day, but by 2030 that traffic could grow to anywhere between 10,000 and 18,000 per day, depending on a number of variables.Turning to building density and development, Winston said that current zoning would allow buildings to be up to 60 feet high along Grand Avenue between 10th and Seventh streets, which could be used to provide some of the roughly 2,500 additional affordable housing units that will be needed in the coming years.After Winston finished speaking, the group broke up into smaller groups at tables bearing maps of the city, markers to jot down ideas and suggestions for changes to the map, and small “chips” denoting such values as open space, higher density and “no change.”While the groups worked on their visions for the city, Winston explained that his team planned to study the maps and the results of the clicker survey and distill that information into a form that can be used for the next round of public input.”These basic ideas … become the seeds upon which we can plan,” he said during the lull, explaining that his team will come up with several alternative plans for the town’s evolution and then present those ideas at future presentations.At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, the ideas were as varied as the people who proposed them, and were the result of sometimes heated debates at the tables around the room.At one table, an argument developed over a contention that the Highway 82/Grand Avenue solution should focus mainly on the needs of the construction industry for highways to carry workers and materials, and the old railroad right of way should be used as a roadway to that end.But another man insisted that the right of way should be preserved for possible future use as a commuter rail route.The debates and ideas were not limited to the main part of Glenwood either.For example, participant Dave Alcott, who serves on the steering committee in charge of the comp plan revisions, presented a potential plan for a new main Glenwood interchange along I-70 that would incorporate a large roundabout which would eliminate the existing Texaco station. A new bridge could link that roundabout with a new road along the old railroad right of way, creating a secondary connection between the north and south banks of the river at that point.Alcott also said his group advocated use of the old railroad right of way as a road.”You can be sensitive to how you use the railroad corridor,” he said. “You can never replace the history of downtown.”In other matters, most of the groups favored leaving the airport alone, although some would like to see it redeveloped as either residential neighborhoods or mixed use commercial and residential and perhaps some park areas. There were several suggestions for a new bridge across the Roaring Fork River, to link Highway 82 more directly to the increasingly dense neighborhoods and to the Four Mile area.All groups agreed that the banks of the Roaring Fork River, and the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers, be preserved as “sacred” open space, with some light retail or restaurant uses near the confluence to serve the users.One group called for redevelopment of the old Glenwood Springs Mall into residential or mixed-use, while other groups proposed redeveloping the old City Market and Van Rand shopping centers, as well as the commercial strip along Glen Avenue beyond 23rd Street, into mixed-use projects.One group suggested the city consider annexing adjacent lands to the south, all the way to Cattle Creek, in order to exercise more control over development trends in that

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