When I started Our Town Glenwood Springs a month ago, I began it more as a way for me to clarify my thoughts on things that are going on in Glenwood Springs. Writing, for me, is a way to analyze information and organize my view. This process has been interesting. It has garnered some attention that I didn’t really anticipate from entities like City Council and the Glenwood Post Independent. I really appreciate the recognition of my effort – and truly that is all it is – just an effort to try to bring some facts to people. I love the following quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” This blog does not address any national crisis – although there are several worthy of addressing – but this blog seeks to stick to the local, Glenwood Springs issues. However, like Lincoln, I am also a firm believer that the people, when given the facts, with make appropriate decisions based on those facts.
Another great statesman, John F. Kennedy said, “The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” This is what has driven me to spend many hours and sleepless nights, reading and researching. Although I have been a resident of Glenwood Springs for nearly 45 years, I wanted to step out of my prefabricated interpretations and, dare I say it, prejudices – to try to find the facts and separate them from assumption and speculation and misinformation that seem to abound. Predictions of blight and vermin infested vacated downtown buildings are no more accurate than being able to return to the 1930’s, 1940’s and early 1950’s where Grand Avenue was an idyllic boulevard with trees forming a canopy shading vehicles traveling to and from the mining town of Aspen and points in between.
Yesterday, citizens of Glenwood Springs, along with business owners, and other interested individuals had the chance to get a glimpse of the height and width of the proposed Grand Avenue Bridge structure. Last night was the first of two planned evenings of public hearings regarding the proposed Access Control Plan. We also learned that the Chamber Resort Association is working to get a mediated “town hall” type of meeting together so that City Council can engage in a dialog with residents, business owners, and other stakeholders over the big three; the bridge, the ACP and a bypass. I certainly hope that the Chamber is able to bring that meeting to fruition.
I found one aspect of yesterday’s meetings very encouraging. The respectful and reasonable comments made by both the citizens commenting and Council was heartening. Yes, I did hear some derogatory remarks generally muttered under breath or for the benefit of someone seated or standing nearby but this was, in my opinion, a far more beneficial assemblage than I have witnessed.
Not unlike other meetings, most were concerned about the impact of the bridge and the ACP on the downtown. This is not to say that other areas were not considered or discussed, but much of the comment involved the downtown area. Some feared that the larger bridge would create a tunnel or canyon effect on the area of Grand Avenue from 7th to 8th Streets and that businesses would be ‘sacrificed” for the bridge. There was concern about emergency access and the potential of closing alleys. There were questions about the real need for a new bridge. Terry Stark thought the issue of a bridge should be brought to a vote of the citizens of Glenwood Springs, but others maintained that the bridge is a regional issue. The scale and mass of the proposed bridge was questioned. Manette Anderson stated that she thought a 3-D model was needed, sooner than later, to help the community visualize the bridge. Several members of City Council agreed and said they had hoped to see that prior to the meeting.
Prior to the Access Control presentation by Michelle Hansen a traffic consultant with Stolfus and Associates, Councilor Todd Leahy asked Michelle to explain the how SH 82 through Glenwood Springs is currently managed under the States Access Control Code. Michelle explained that under the current state code, adopted in 1981 and revised once in 2002, the only access guaranteed to any parcel is a right-in-right-out access. If development/redevelopment of a property occurs and it increases traffic to that property by 20 percent, then the owner/developer must file for an access permit. She emphasized that the current Access Code does not take into consideration land use and it is very rigid in its application. She also stated that it is not equitable as access is granted on a first-come-first-served basis. The advantage to adopting an ACP is that it gives the City a say in how things are managed. While it is an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) and legally binding, it can be amended. She stated that in Colorado State Transportation Region 3, of which Glenwood is a part, five requests for amendments have been requested and all five requests were approved.
During her comments to Council after the presentation, Karen Price stated that it was very helpful to know what the existing policy was. She also mentioned that she spoke with Chief of Police Terry Wilson and he explained that emergency access including firefighting procedure would not be much different with a new bridge than it was now. She said she appreciated his explanation. However, she wondered what the impact of the new bridge and the ACP would have on community events like the Strawberry Days Parade, Downtown Farmer’s Market. She also wondered whether adequate consideration had been given to ADA issues.
Bob Andre and John Burg stated they thought the process that had been undertaken for the bridge and the ACP was good. Mr. Burg emphasized that pedestrian movement must be considered particularly in the downtown. He stated that downtown Glenwood was special and he knew the DDA was working to make sure key issues were addressed.
Chris McGovern spoke twice, once regarding the bridge and the second time regarding the ACP. Perhaps she will forward me her comments on the bridge for use in this blog. Regarding the ACP she questioned the wisdom of the use of U-turns throughout town as a solution due to the fact that many people misjudge the turning radius of their vehicles. She encouraged more public meetings as planned by the Chamber.
Councilor Dave Sturges mentioned that he was not convinced that the ACP was a better option than the current Access Code and it would allow the City more say. He is very concerned with the impact on 8th, 9th and 10th streets and sees this as an opportunity to enhance the downtown experience for visitors and residents alike.
County resident John Haines mentioned that he talked with Governor Hickenlooper briefly in Snowmass on Wednesday evening and was given the name of a contact at the Governor’s office for further discussion regarding the Grand Avenue Bridge as he did not feel the Governor received both sides of the story from his brief meeting with City Council.
Members of City Council emphasized that while they are unanimous in their opinion that a new bridge is needed and that the proposed alignment is the best, many aspects of the bridge are not set in stone, including the design and aesthetics and the 8th Street configuration and the pedestrian bridge. They also stated that, regarding the ACP, they are still gathering information and listening to comments and suggestions and will weigh the concerns, considerations and suggestions very carefully before making a final decision. They encouraged the community to continue to give them feedback via email and Councilor Bershenyi restated that he is happy to meet with anyone for coffee and discussion.
With this blog, I simply wanted to get some information out about the comments from last night’s meeting. If you feel I have not accurately represented your comments, or you wish to add additional comments, please feel free to add to the discussion in the form of a comment. As an editorial comment I wish to say that this City Council faces some of the most burdensome and potentially divisive issues to come before this body for many years. We, as citizens, rather than criticizing and condemning them should be doing everything we can to assist them in making the best, most sagacious decisions possible for our community. I think we are moving in that direction. Let’s continue to keep the discussion positive and thoughtful.