Steamboat Springs Planning Commission did its best Thursday night to avoid becoming involved in a dispute between City Council President Kevin Bennett and his neighbors, while voting to approve a permit that would allow Bennett and his wife, Jane, to replat and consolidate lots on their Old Town property.
The Bennetts and their neighbors, Kay and David Sieverding, have been engaged in an ongoing dispute over their mutual use of a block of Princeton Avenue, a dead-end street. After lengthy negotiations through a mediator hired by the city, the Bennetts and Sieverdings signed an agreement intended to resolve disputes arising from the Bennetts use of part of the public right-of-way for parking, and the Sieverdings' landscaping, which extends into the road right-of-way. The city is paying $4,090 for the services of the mediator who worked on the agreement.
The commission voted 8-1 to recommend that Planning Director Wendie Schulenburg grant a minor development permit that would allow the Bennetts to consolidate two of the existing Old Town lots they own. Commission Chairwoman Shelley Pastachak cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she wanted more information about the sizes of lots surrounding the Bennett property so she could be reassured the new lot they were creating was in keeping with the neighborhood.
Planning Commission didn't vote until it had listened to approximately 20 minutes of remarks from Kay Sieverding, who gave a detailed explanation of why she thinks the Bennetts' application circumvents the intent of the mediated agreement they mutually signed.
"It's been a disturbing thing to listen to," Commissioner Joe Fogliano said. "But really, it amounts to long-standing animosities we've been called upon to help with."
The Bennetts own several lots on a hill above Soda Creek. Their home is located on one lot. Their proposal was to combined the other two into a single lot. City planner Scott Woodford said the proposal would not increase the Bennetts' development potential on their property, because they already have the ability to construct another dwelling.
Kay Sieverding protested that creation of a new building lot would eliminate guest parking the Bennetts had promised to develop on their property, and exacerbate existing problems with traffic on Princeton Avenue.
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