City Council objects to bank's site plans

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— Steamboat Springs City Council told representatives of the First National Bank Tuesday night to come back in July with a better plan for their new building.

Council voted 6-1 to table until July 11 the bank's petition for a permit to build a 14,336-square-foot building at the corner of U.S. 40 and Hilltop Parkway. Councilman Bud Romberg cast the lone dissenting vote. Planning Commission had voted 6-1 to recommend approval of the new bank building on May 11. The site is across Hilltop from the Sinclair station, between downtown and the mountain.

After months of trying, Safeway obtained the approval it sought Tuesday night to build a 7,982-square-foot addition to its existing grocery store on U.S. 40. City Council voted unanimously to approve the project and thanked the developers for making the architectural modifications the city had sought.

First National Bank of Steamboat Springs is already open for business in a temporary building on the site.

Members of City Council objected to the site plan for the new building. The plan shows all of the parking in a lot fronting on U.S. 40, which council members said is in direct conflict with city guidelines.

"This is one of the most visible sites in our community," Councilman Ken Brenner said. "If we are ever to ask people consistently to put parking to the rear of buildings, why can't we do it at this visible site?"

The city has two planning documents both the U.S. 40 Design Guidelines and the Building and Architectural Design Guidelines that call for parking to be placed behind buildings on U.S. 40.

City planner Scott Woodford reported that during a meeting with city staff, the bank's representative, architect Eric Smith, was asked to demonstrate all of the reasons the bank's developers could not comply with the goal of placing parking behind the building. Woodford said he was satisfied that although the bank's preferred site plan did not meet city goals, it was the most feasible and practical for a bank on the site. He added that he felt the bank's landscaping plan would screen the view of cars from the highway.

Smith told council the site plan for the bank was driven by the need to design a safe and practical traffic flow through the bank's drive-up teller window. That was particularly difficult in this case, Smith said, because the site is long and narrow.

The first consideration was minimizing pedestrian and vehicular conflicts, Smith said. Traffic also needed to be routed around the building in a counterclockwise direction in order for the drive-up windows to be on the left hand side of the car, closest to the driver, as the car enters the drive-up bays.

When those two factors were considered together, Smith said the only practical site plan showed the drive-up facility toward the rear of the building and the parking in front.

City Council wasn't satisfied that was the only alternative and asked the bank to come up with new alternatives. Council members also directed Smith to return with plans that wouldn't require extending a large boulder retaining wall further than the existing wall built by the bank.

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