Promenade at Steamboat Ski Area hits bump
Easement talks with Sheraton could change plans as deadlines near
May 5, 2011
Steamboat Springs — The city is negotiating with the Sheraton Steamboat Resort for use of a private easement near the base of Steamboat Ski Area, in talks that, if an agreement isn't reached, could scale back plans for a section of the public promenade.
Construction deadlines are approaching for the promenade, the key piece of the city's multiyear, $20 million redevelopment project at the base area.
"The one easement we don't yet have is the Sheraton," Steamboat Springs engineer Janet Hruby said Thursday, during a meeting of the Urban Redevelopment Area Advisory Committee in Centennial Hall. "We're on a really, really tight timeline. … By the end of this month, we need to know one way or another."
The dispute involves about 80 feet of land between the Bear River Bar & Grill and the slope to Torian Plum Plaza, near a Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. ski shop and stairs leading into the Sheraton.
The city's construction plans include use of the Sheraton easement, for installation of pavers and part of the promenade's snowmelt systems, along with grading work. But lawyers for the Sheraton, which is owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, do not want to yield the easement if the Sheraton has any future liability for damage to that section of the promenade.
Hruby said future renovations to the Sheraton could, for example, require use of 90,000-pound ladder trucks. The promenade is designed to bear loads of about 54,000 pounds. Bridges along the promenade, Hruby said, are designed for about 72,000 pounds.
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URAAC member Brent Pearson, co-manager of Steamboat Partners, said URAAC strongly should recommend not agreeing to essentially a blank check for future damages to that promenade section.
"That risk is huge, and the cost would be substantial if you damaged the entire (snowmelt) system," Pearson said Thursday.
URAAC oversees base area redevelopment and makes recommendations to the Steamboat Springs City Council, which acts as the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority when dealing with base area redevelopment issues.
Sheraton representative Karla M. O'Day said Thursday that a deal remains possible.
"We're hoping that we come to an agreement between the city and Starwood," O'Day said. "We just want to preserve our right to be able to access previous easements, in addition to being good neighbors."
Such public-private disputes are not new to redevelopment efforts at the ski base.
In April 2007, for example, the city entered spring construction season while still negotiating base area easements with entities including Mount Werner Lodge, Ski Corp. and Torian Plum Plaza homeowners.
This latest issue comes at the 11th hour before a construction season in which the city is planning a huge push toward completion of the massive redevelopment project's most public features, highlighted by the promenade.
Hruby said she would announce an easement agreement — or not — at URAAC's next meeting June 2.
"We're now at a point where we talked again and we're moving forward," Hruby said.
URAAC members recommended that the city continue working toward an agreement but also plan for a scaled-back section of the promenade should negotiations fail.
Hruby said without an agreement, the promenade could be narrowed next to the 80-foot Sheraton easement, with potentially some landscaping and a more obvious public-private boundary.
"I don't think that would affect your feel of the promenade significantly," Pearson said.
"Aesthetically, you might not necessarily notice it when you're on the promenade," Hruby added.
URAAC member and land-use consultant Peter Patten disagreed.
"What we're talking about is quite a separation there," he said.
Patten noted that the city is planning to use public dollars to install new pavers and snowmelt features from which the Sheraton could benefit.
"Why would they not want us to do that?" he said rhetorically Thursday.
Hruby said negotiations also are under way regarding a smaller Sheraton easement, on the hotel's north side, closer to Torian Plum Plaza.
"You would have a connection, it might just look a little bit funky," Hruby said about that spot, should an agreement not be reached there.
On the stage
Also Thursday, Hruby updated URAAC about early construction progress across the base area.
Hruby said land near Terry Sports and the Torian Plum parking garage has been brought down 2 to 3 feet, through initial regrading work. Much of that earth has been moved temporarily to the former site of Thunderhead Lodge.
Ski Corp. has begun work in Gondola Square, where it plans to replace pavers and drainage systems.
Hruby said she is meeting with Ski Corp. next week to discuss plans for its permanent stage next to the gondola building. She said those plans must be completed quickly to allow that work to mesh with public promenade work by Duckels Construction near the gondola.
"Everybody is working mad-dashedly to get the plans finalized," Hruby said. "We're on track now, but it is nerve-rackingly close."
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