At this week’s Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting, a series of funding actions in the morning was followed by a contentious public hearing regarding a potential development at Flying M Ranch.
The meeting opened with a reading of Governor Polis’ proclamation that 4-H week has begun nationwide.
First on a tall list of action items were a pair of funding requests from Paula Stepp of the Middle Colorado Watershed Council. The first request was for $10,000 for continued annual financial support, and the second was $5,000 to match state funding for post-fire restoration at Grizzly Creek. Both items were approved.
Garfield County Finance Director Jamaica Watts presented a summary of the allocation of $11.6 million in American Rescue Plan funding. County revenue loss due to COVID-19 from 2020-23 totaled $21.7 million. In 2021 and 2022, $833,000 was directed to Criminal Justice Services, $1.9 million to the Broadband Middle Mile Project, and $3 million to maintain government services. The remaining $5.8 million for 2023 has now been directed to the County’s general fund, along with an additional $1.9 million from the Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund.
Watts remained at the table to redirect $1 million collected in the Traffic Impact Fund to the Road and Bridge Fund.
After the action items, Substance Use Disorder Director Traci Harris presented an update on the new withdrawal management unit, currently under construction on Grand Avenue. The 8-bed unit will be medically monitored and is targeted to be complete at the end of the first quarter of 2024, depending on construction.
Flying M Ranch
In the afternoon, the meeting hall saw a fully housed public hearing for a development at Flying M Ranch.
Flying M Ranch is a 33.91-acre property located at a bend in the Roaring Fork River, 5.5 miles south of Glenwood Springs along Highway 82. The PUD application proposes the construction of 154 market rate rental townhomes, four affordable rental townhomes, 12 townhomes to be used exclusively by Roaring Fork School District employees and, critically, a 12-bed hospice home as well as two worker dwelling units for the home’s employees.
This is the BOCC’s second vote on this proposal, with changes from the previous proposal including: reduced density, architectural modifications to better fit in with the surroundings and provisions for affordable housing in order to comply with Article Eight.
Additionally, the applicant, Eastbank LLC, is proposing that 10% of the multifamily units will be deed restricted — not counting the 12 additional units dedicated to employees of the School District.
Many attendants opposed the development at Flying M Ranch. Citizens in and around the area preferred that the local rural character be preserved, and that development should be limited to already dense areas.
Citizens in opposition also pointed to lack of roadway improvements as part of the development plan, which they argued would result in increased traffic and danger in an area already burdened with traffic impediments. Many asked for a more in-depth traffic study, and others argued that increasing traffic around a school area is bound to lead to a disaster. Others argued that for-sale units are more important to address housing than temporary rental units, citing that the cost of rent — listed as ranging from $3,500 to $4,000 — requires an income far greater than most Garfield County citizens are capable of reasonably affording.
Supporters lauded the possibility of increased hospice care as well as housing for Roaring Fork School District employees. Many citizens cited the shortage of hospice care in the Valley and its importance for family members in their last months of life, arguing that current hospice professionals need more resources in order to provide their necessary service.
Homecare and Hospice of the Valley — a partner of the developer — also appeared in support for the same reasons. Other supporters cited that valley development can’t be stopped, and the best way to proceed is to make the effort to develop in a way that meets the needs of current and future citizens.
The applicant, after over two hours of public comment, requested to respond to questions and comments in a continuation of the hearing on Monday, Nov. 13 at noon. This will be held after a second site visit on Thursday, Oct. 12 at 10am by the board, to which the public is invited to but will not be permitted to comment at that time.