RIDGWAY – The town’s Planning Commission held a public hearing on Tuesday (Nov. 29), as required, to rule on a requested lot split in Solar Ranch. But what really caught the commissioner’s attention was a late addition to the agenda regarding the new Hwy 62 bridge over the Uncompahgre River: Would the Colorado Department of Transportation welcome the town’s suggestions to make the new bridge a handsome “gateway” to the community, or would CDOT insist on drab Soviet-era function?
The question was answered (as best she could) by Town Public Works Director Joanne Fagan. But first, the commission had to deal with the lot subdivision.
It wasn’t a baby that was to be split in half, it was Lot 86D at the corner of Sabeta Drive and Tabernash Lane in Solar Ranch. The Solomonic judgment of the commission was to approve the division. But not before several questions were answered by the applicant, Suzanne Greischel, her attorney, Michael Hockersmith, and the town staff, in the person of Manager Jen Coates.
Coates explained that the property’s existing duplex, joined at the double garage, was to be split precisely down the common wall separating the two units. And that a “party wall agreement” had been drafted and was agreeable to all involved, regarding maintenance, repairs and so on.
Commission Chair Brian Scranton asked: “What if 86D-1 wanted to tear down his half of the building and instead construct a freestanding house?”
“Not possible under the party wall agreement,” Hockersmith said.
“What if half of it burned down?” asked Mayor Pat Willits.
Same thing, Hockersmith reassured. The party wall conditions require rebuilding using the common wall, the common roof, and a similar (southwestern) style design.
Mayor Pro Tem John Clark asked if the common wall had been built to proper fire standards. Coates answered that it had; it was an International Building Code two-hour fire wall.
Willits: “It’s convenient the way it just needs a line [drawn on the plat]. And I love the term party wall.”
The motion to approve passed unanimously.
Coates and Fagan then updated the commission on their recent meetings with CDOT about the river bridge, which is slated to begin construction on or around March 15, 2012.
The bridge was undergoing its 70-percent design review, Fagan said, so it is substantially designed, on paper. But, she said, CDOT was receptive to input from the town and its Streetscape Group on a number of aesthetic and functional components.
“We asked for lighting, for banner poles (to announce events in town), we asked for input on colors and interesting railing designs and for separation from the roadway of the sidewalk along the south side of the bridge,” Fagan said.
“We get to weigh in on a bit of landscaping on the north side, in the Rollans Park area, where the temporary bridge will be built” as the old one is removed.
Coates projected a slide of a sketch by local architect Doug McFarlane, which showed the bridge as the Streetscape Group might wish it to be: with elegant pilasters, rusted steel railings, and fluted-concrete abutments. “We’d like it to announce ‘Gateway’[and] ‘Bridge Coming,’” Coates said. But, she cautioned, while CDOT engineers are amenable to some input, final design rests with them, and “we might not get the double pilasters. Maybe we’ll get one.”
Fagan projected a slide of the just-completed Bear Creek bridge on Red Mountain Pass, of which CDOT is (justifiably) proud. Its lines are clean and unadorned.
Commissioner member Nick Wasser asked if CDOT might we willing to “add a high-water feature, a boulder, something that would create a nice little wave” near the completed bridge. Or perhaps, said Scranton, “Can we get a little gravel put-in” for boaters?
“I think we can comfortably tell you,” Coates said, “that CDOT will not go for that.”
Fagan said the state most certainly will accommodate earth-tone colors for the concrete. (John Clark said the Streetscape Group had requested rusty reds and sage greens.) And likely will agree to match the rusted steel railings on the existing pedestrian bridge. She emphasized that the talks with CDOT have been constructive and accommodating, given the town’s limited say-so.
Coates outlined, as best she knew, the schedule CDOT hoped to meet. “They hope to start March 15, when the [bald] eagle restriction is lifted, and before April 1, when the migratory bird restrictions start.” (CDOT is required to mow beneath the bridge and net the underside to prevent migratory birds from nesting there.)
Fagan expected the temporary bridge to be in place for at least six months, “from spring to fall,” while the old span is torn out and one-half of the new bridge (one and one-half lanes) is constructed. For six months after that, traffic will move to the new half-bridge, while the girders supporting the temporary are reused in building the other half of the new bridge.
The three-laning of Hwy 62 through Ridgway is scheduled for completion in 2016.