Revamped Pine Grove development applauded by Planning Commission

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— Steamboat Springs Planning Commission applauded changes Thursday night to a proposed residential development on a sensitive piece of property along Pine Grove Road. However, commissioners cautioned that developer Ted Christner has some work to do before they'll be ready to approve the project.

Christner owns 13 acres of land on Pine Grove Road immediately across from Central Park Plaza, where City Market and Wal-Mart are located. He's proposing to develop 11 single-family home lots on the land, but there's a significant chance passing motorists on Pine Grove will never see the homes.

That's because the homes will be clustered on the opposite side of a steep hillside that fronts on Pine Grove. That hillside, covered with natural grasses, a couple of interesting rock formations and a scattering of wildflowers, has become an oasis of open space in the midst of burgeoning commercial development.

"This is really a big, long meadow along Pine Grove," project architect Eric Smith said. "I think keeping development off that portion of the property would be appropriate." He said his client was willing to take steps to ensure the hillside remains untouched.

The Christner development was up for a conceptual review at Planning Commission's Thursday night meeting. That means that although Planning Commission gave a thorough review of the tentative development plans, no vote was taken. The project will still go through at least two public hearings.

The goal of keeping development off the west-facing hillside along Pine Grove means the impact will be shifted to residents of the quiet neighborhood on Montview Lane, as well as on people living in Trollhaugen condominiums, which Christner developed about 30 years ago.

Some of the neighbors were on hand last night to tell Planning Commission they're concerned about vehicular access to the Christner development on Montview.

"When you add 11 homes to about 20 on Montview and Trollhaugen, they're all at the end of a dead-end road, and I think there's a potential fire problem," homeowner Jim Funk said.

Jim Sprengle added that Trollhaugen Court needs improvements before it can handle the traffic from the new subdivision.

Christner had originally proposed to develop 19 lots, including three triplex and 16 duplex lots.

Smith said that after meeting with neighbors and being persuaded by planning staff, Christner revised the development plans.

"I'd like to thank the applicant because it's a much better plan than what was first proposed," Planning Commissioner Ken Miller said.

But, he noted that it will be difficult to design three of the 11 homesites so the future structures on them do not protrude into skyline views. That's something that is prohibited by the city code.

Planning Commission Chairwoman Shelley Pastachak and commissioner Tony Connell stressed to Smith the importance of acquiring easements from neighboring property owners so an alternative road access can be built from the subdivision to Central Park Drive near the Yampa Valley Medical Center.

If the developers can achieve that, and preserve the hillside on Pine Grove Road, Commissioner Kathi Meyer said she thinks it would be a worthwhile trade for minor encroachment on the provision of the skyline ordinance. But only if every means of mitigation available is studied first.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail tomross@amigo.net

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