Fate of Flat Tops in Council's hand

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— No one can say the architecture for the Flat Tops Townhomes hasn't evoked a response from the public; Steamboat Springs City Council has received 33 letters, from as far away as Venezuela, expressing concern about the proposed development near the base of the ski area.

City Council could decide the fate of the project tonight during its regular meeting. It would create 24 new townhomes at the northwest and southwest corners of Village Drive and Medicine Springs Road, less than a half mile from the Silver Bullet Gondola. Planning Commission has reviewed the Flat Tops twice, voting 8-0 to table the project for architectural changes on Feb. 24, and 6-3 to recommend denial of the plan on March 23. Now, the developers are making a direct appeal to City Council. If the recommendation for denial is upheld, it will be the final action on the permit. If Planning Commission's vote is overturned, the applicant may apply for a building permit, according to acting Assistant Director of Planning Scott Woodford.

Most of the controversy surrounding the Flat Tops stems from its modern lines, which make no attempt to emulate the familiar gabled roofs that have exemplified most of the resort lodging properties constructed in the latter half of the '90s. The project also incorporates zinc siding on a minority of the building's exterior. Metal siding has been a source of controversy locally since a different metal material was used on the exterior of the Butcherknife Co-Housing project.

Architects Scott Myller and Katie Kiefer of West Elevation architecture have maintained that the flat and shed roof lines of the Flat Tops, as well as the metal siding, draw from the materials evident in historic agricultural buildings around Routt County. They add that their clients, Ron and Elizabeth Young of Linderhurst, N.Y., feel strongly that their project, with its architectural design, would fill an empty niche in the Steamboat market. They believe they can tap into a clientele which is looking specifically for something like the Flat Tops.

However, at least 33 of the Flat Tops neighbors, most of them in the nearby Trappeur's Crossing and Cascades projects, have registered their distaste for the architecture in writing.

Pedro Torres Benedetti of Caracas, Venezuela, wrote City Council to say he is concerned that the appearance of Flat Tops could "spoil" Steamboat's reputation for greeting vacationers with warmth.

"Being a civil engineer, and having skied worldwide for the last 30 years, I am familiar with the architecture being proposed since it has become very popular in some of the modernistic resorts of the French Alps, such as Les Menuires and Val Thorens," Torres Benedetti wrote. "Compared to the traditional alpine styles, this style has a very cold and unfriendly, as well as cheap look to it. I believe the contrast with the other townhouses in the area would be detrimental to the site."

Benedetti owns a unit in the Cascades.

Alfred Kahn is an orthopedic surgeon from Cincinnati, Ohio, who owns a condominium at Trappeur's Crossing. He wrote to council to say he didn't think Flat Tops would fit in with its surroundings.

"From the sketches that were sent to us, it would appear that this project will stand out significantly, creating a disagreeable blend of architectural presentations," Kahn wrote.

Woodford is recommending denial of the project because he doesn't think its design fits the city's architectural guidelines.

Woodford quoted from the city's Building and Architectural Design Guidelines: "Roof style should balance compatibility with the character of the area and snowshed considerations. Where pitch roofs are used, steeper roof pitch are preferred; however, whether the roof will hold or release snow should be considered. This guideline does not intend to preclude the use of flatter pitches."

Woodford said he has no issues with the snowshed characteristics of the Flat Tops, but he believes the townhomes don't meet the requirement that they be compatible with their surroundings.

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