In the Glenwood Springs Post Independent’s interviews with the eight candidates vying for the three open Carbondale trustee positions, what immediately leapt out at me were three things all of them have in common.
First, they all love Carbondale and appreciate its unique character. Multi-generation native or relative newbie, each cited this love as motivating their desire to serve and protect their hometown.
Second, all are painfully aware of the unprecedented nature of the big challenges: climate change and its immediate and increasing hazards, from wildfires originating in the growing wildland urban interface, to ongoing drought and severe water shortages, to wildly escalating land prices making homes unaffordable.
Third, despite protestations of optimism, I sensed a gut-twisting anxiety about what can actually be achieved against those dangers, in time to stave off the worst of them, or at least to cultivate adequate resilience to survive them.
The battle West Glenwood residents have put up against the 480 Donegan annexation and development project comes from the same love for community, awareness of danger and anxiety about a future that suddenly seems to hold daunting new threats. When Floyd Diemoz contracted with R2, a Cincinnati, Ohio, firm of housing developers, to build a very dense housing project (originally over 400 units, later reduced to 300) in the 15+ acre field behind the languishing mall, if it could be annexed to the city, the neighborhood surrounding the pasture erupted with dismay.
For over a year, in meeting after meeting with city boards, staff and the council, neighbors tirelessly articulated their opposition, chiefly in terms of the way the proposed development would increase vulnerability already acknowledged by fire authorities as extreme. Each individual speaker was restricted to three minutes to comment, while the developers had unlimited time for their sales pitch. And what a pitch it was — and still is!
Let’s not forget that developers are companies with a product to sell; one that they have honed to perfection for maximum profitability, knowing to the penny how much they can negotiate on price. They spend lavishly on professional marketing materials to convince our elected representatives that we need what they are offering. Those representatives don’t have an easy task, when the developer paints his product’s promised solutions in glowing terms and images. They know the needs are real.
The growing conviction we have that the urgent needs of our time demand new thinking lags behind the necessary confidence to boldly innovate. Like the trustee candidates, we know that many of the old ways must change. Enacting new zoning and land use regulations to ensure safe growth is essential to a viable future.
The usual sales techniques of carrot dangling and stick brandishing have been used effectively by this developer. The biggest carrot is “affordable housing,” of course. But ask, affordable for whom? In last summer’s survey, Glenwood residents identified workforce housing for those earning under 60% of the average median income (AMI) as among their top five issues. But R2 is claiming affordability for those earning between 80% and 120% AMI – pretty much the same income category of workers that all the other multi-family complexes, new or underway, are marketing to.
No one is building for the lower wage workers we belatedly recognized during the pandemic as essential: the folks who stock your shelves, make your coffee, care for your kids and pets, cut your hair, clean your houses. The most flexible and innovative workforce housing is being offered by the area’s biggest private employers, like Aspen Ski Company and the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, with some exploration of public/private partnerships tentatively underway. Still, no one is designing or building housing for the portion of our diverse community that prefers to live in multi-generational households. Instead, R2 promised to keep the actual numbers of residents at 700 through lease restrictions.
The big stick is the threatened commercial park Garfield County approved for the site 41 years ago, which the Diemoz family never completed, and the lost opportunity to develop the mall into an again-thriving concern. In fact, R2 has no contract to buy or develop the mall. Currently another developer does, so it seems the hope that correcting the management problems that led to the mall’s decline are not tied to R2’s successful annexation and housing project.
The Glenwood Springs Citizens for Sensible Development, which grew out of the ad hoc group of neighbors organizing opposition to the pasture annexation and conversion to a housing development, has evolved a larger vision. Like the candidates for Carbondale’s Board of Town Trustees, we are ready to roll up our sleeves and work toward imagining and implementing real solutions to threats to the community we love, linking up with efforts already underway to revise the comprehensive plan.
Meanwhile, the pasture remains a green and lovely spot that lifts the spirits of all who walk, bike or drive past it. Let it be that until a fitting use is proposed and the timing is right. Vote YES on Ballot measure B to repeal the annexation!
Laurie Raymond has lived in West Glenwood since 2002. She has owned High Tails Dog & Cat Outfitters, also in West Glenwood, since 2004, and is now a member of the Glenwood Springs Citizens for Sensible Development.
Current residents at 480 Donegan Road. Photo by Bobbie Meriwether.
R2 Partners and the Diemoz family invite the public to three get-togethers in March for an informal discussion on the 480 Donegan property, the annexation ballot question, the project’s intended benefits and ways to continue offering feedback throughout the master planning process. Each of the gatherings will include a 30-minute presentation, Q&A and refreshments. Everyone is welcome; please confirm attendance in advance by emailing email@example.com or texting 970-618-5114.
Monday, March 28
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
GWS Community Center
Wednesday, March 30
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
GWS Community Center
Thursday, March 31
4 – 6 p.m.