More of the ‘Colfax-ification’ of Highway 82

John Colson
Hit & Run

In case no one has mentioned this, we here in the middle reaches of the Roaring Fork Valley are watching as the Highway 82 corridor, the sole arterial roadway through our little paradise, is being turned into the rural equivalent of Colfax Avenue in Denver.

At least, that is the case in the areas controlled by Garfield and Eagle counties (from Glenwood Springs to Basalt), which are quickly being filled up by commercial and residential growth, though the Pitkin County stretch farther upvalley remains relatively free of rampant development.

And today, I’m here to tell you about two more projects in this ongoing remaking of our world — plans for nearly 200,000 square feet of storage units, split almost evenly between the property that has for decades housed the Planted Earth greenhouse and nursery, and the property known as the T.O. Ranch subdivision just across Highway 82 from the Catherine Store gas station and liquor store.

The two projects are separate but equal in a lot of ways, and interestingly both seem to be set for review on the same day — Monday, March 18, at the Garfield County Commissioner’s meeting room in Glenwood Springs, in case you’d like to attend and offer up your thoughts on the proposals.

It also caught my eye that both projects — known respectively as the GO Self Storage at the Planted Earth location, and the Blue Mountain Storage Facility at the T.O. Ranch — are making use of a single land-use planning firm, The Land Studio in Glenwood Springs.

And finally, I found it intriguing that while the Blue Mountain project seems to be headed up by a couple of Aspen-area entrepreneurs, the money for the GO facility appears to be coming from developers in the Kansas City, Missouri region.

After some hunting and pecking around Garfield County’s website, I managed to find the applications for each project as they were submitted to the county’s Community Development Department, which at one time was called the Garfield County Planning Office (the name-change might give you an inkling of how the county views its role in regulating growth.)

As some readers doubtfully are aware, these applications come in packets with dozens or, in some cases, hundreds of pages of minutae, and I did not have time to go through them completely and still make my deadline for this column. I only learned of the projects over the weekend, when I noticed that the two projects will be subject to one, and only one, public hearing, because the county has decreed that they would have only “limited impact” if approved.

One might question that designation, of course, but Garfield County has a reputation for never seeing a development application it didn’t like.

Well, that’s not completely fair, even in my own limited experience of having covered Garfield County growth issues for a mere 40 years or so.

I dimly recall one big proposal in the late 1970s, I think it was called Crown Meadows, that would have created essentially a new town the size of Carbondale in the upland meadows along Prince Creek Road.

As I recall (I could not find any reference to it in local newspaper online archives), the project was on land that generally was known as the Big Four ranches, on the mesas to the southeast of Carbondale.

A partnership of developers wanted to build some 900 homes on those meadows, which at the time was greater than the number of occupied homes in Carbondale, if my memory serves correctly.

That was a bit much even for the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).

Anyway, the BOCC took a long time to consider the proposal, and to review the forceful opposition to the plan by the Carbondale Board of Trustees, before they did what at the time was nearly unthinkable — they denied approvals for the project.

All of which is to say that it is not true that Garfield County has always, without exception, been a friend to any and all developers who came down the pike.

Though it must be said that such rejections have been few and far between.

My hope is that the current BOCC will apply as much skeptical common sense to their review of these storage projects as the former board did to the Crown Meadows project (if that’s what it was called.)

While it may be true, as the developers maintain, that there is sufficient market pressure to justify creation of additional storage facilities in the valley, I can’t help but think there must be a better place to put them than right along a relatively bucolic stretch of Highway 82.

Of course, I’m a guy who would rather catch up-close glimpses of horses, cows and open pastures than commercial clutter and parking lots as I drive up and down valley.

But that’s just me.

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