Steamboat Springs The mountain village at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area isn't the right place for an urban-style row house project.
That was the opinion of a majority of City Council, which voted 4-2 Tuesday night to uphold Planning Commission and reject a development permit for the Flat Tops Townhomes.
The Flat Tops would have created 24 new townhomes on Village Drive. But council members agreed with the city planning staff and Planning Commission that the project's flat roofs and distinctly urban look was incompatible with neighboring multi-family resort housing projects, and therefore did not meet the city's architectural design guidelines.
"I can't come up with a compelling reason to reverse staff and Planning Commission," Councilwoman Kathy Connell said. "This is a mountain village. The mix of materials is unacceptable."
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.
Connell said she would have voted against Flat Tops solely on the basis of its proposed use of some smooth metal siding with a dull zinc finish.
Councilwoman Arianthtettner agreed with Connell that Flat Tops did not show enough sensitivity to the context of the neighborhood, less than a half mile from the Silver Bullet Gondola.
"With innovation, there is a risk," Stettner said. "Here we see it tonight, an innovative project in the wrong place."
Jim Engelken and Ken Brenner cast the two dissenting votes. Engelken said Flat Tops posed the most serious challenge to the city architectural guidelines in the almost five years of their existence.
"To me, the whole issue tonight boils down to an issue of taste," Engelken said. "We're here arguing tonight not whether this is good land use planning, but whether it's good taste, and I'm not very comfortable with that. I cannot deny this based on taste."
City Council heard Planning Commissioner Ken Miller, who voted against the Flat Tops on March 23, say the commission's recommendation of denial was not based on subjective opinions, but on a thoughtful analysis of the language in the architectural guidelines. Miller said the majority of the commission agreed with acting Assistant Planning Director Scott Woodford's assessment that Flat Tops did not meet the test of being compatible with the neighborhood.
"It was more than a gut feeling. It was more than an opinion. It was more than a subjective review," Miller said. "Instead, it was based on the language in the code."
Miller said Planning Commission's recommendation could be described as a "site-specific denial." The commission's action didn't so much reject the design, but the location in a neighborhood where its flat roofs and overall look was not harmonious with neighboring buildings that favor a predominance of gable roofs.
More than 30 neighbors, most of them owners at either the Cascades at Eagleridge or Trappeur's Crossing, wrote to City Council to urge denial of the Flat Tops.
Katie Kiefer of West Elevation architecture told City Council she and partner Scott Myller had worked with a succession of six different city planners on the townhome project. She pointed to award-winning home designs from Sunset Magazine as examples of the aesthetic she and Myller were striving for and said there is unmet demand in Steamboat for second homes with a similar design philosophy.
"I think it goes to what consumer expectations are of what the product is going to be in the Western states," Kiefer said.
Developer Ron Young said he told his architects: "We want something different. We want something innovative."
In the end, it was clear that "something different" was not something City Council was comfortable approving.
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