FedEx plan bounces back to planning board

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— If the new Federal Express building was a shipping package, it would have been "returned to sender" more than once.

Developers of the new building for FedEx in Steamboat Springs return to Planning Commission tonight in hopes that a redesigned roof line and added landscaping will change enough minds to win a recommendation of approval.

City planner Scott Woodford told Planning Commission during a work session Tuesday that the architectural changes were enough for him to change his previous recommendation of tabling to one of approval. Woodford said he had specifically recommended tabling in the past so that the developers could modify a long, unbroken roof line facing Elk River Road.

"The primary reasons for this recommendation are the stepping of the roofline, the addition of the windows to the garage doors, the altering of the colors of the doors, so that they do not stand out from the surrounding facade, the canopy over the loading dock, and the significantly increased landscaping," Woodford wrote in a memo to Planning Commission.

The Federal Express building entered the city planning process in January and has been tangled between Planning Commission and City Council since late March. Much of the confusion stems from changes the developers have introduced between hearings in front of the Planning Commission and City Council.

City Council, unwilling to reverse Planning Commission recommendations of denial based on information the other group had not seen, twice remanded the project back to the commissioners.

The new FedEx building is proposed for a lot in the Copper Ridge Business Park just off Elk River Road (County Road 129). Copper Ridge is zoned industrial and, in practice, buildings there are not held to the same design standards as some other places in the city. However, Planning Commission has a recent track record of holding developers whose Copper Ridge projects face Elk River Road to higher architectural standards than elsewhere in the business park. That is because the short stretch of the road closest to Steamboat also serves as the beginning of a scenic corridor that extends through the pastoral countryside of the Elk River valley.

Other developers who recently underwent extensive revisions in order to receive city approval include Copper Ridge Warehouse, Wagner Rents and Wescoin Business Centre at Copper Ridge.

Previous public hearings have made it clear that Planning Commission objects most strenuously to a series of five large garage doors that dominate the west elevation of the building which faces Elk River Road. The opposite side of the building has a similar number of garage doors.

FedEx Project Manager Larry Muckridge has explained that the garage bays are a critical part of the building's function. They allow delivery vans to back up to an efficient loading dock system. Further, the shape of the building lot doesn't permit simply rotating the building 90 degrees to shift the garage doors away from the view of passing motorists.

Federal Express is not the developer of its new building. RTJ Copper Ridge, a limited liability company managed by Jerry Soukup, is the developer. The site and building plan were chosen by Federal Express. Soukup's company would construct the building and lease it back to FedEx.

The 17,000-square-foot building would house 18 delivery vans serving destinations within 50 miles of Steamboat.

FedEx serves the Steamboat area with two aircraft based at Steamboat Springs Airport, as well as an over-the-road truck that hauls "two-day" packages between Steamboat and Denver.

The office facility would also include offices and a customer-service counter for drive-up customers in Steamboat.

Currently, FedEx employees must load and unload vans outside during winter weather, according to a company spokesman.

Planning Commission originally voted 7-2 to recommend denial of the project on March 23. Planning Commission might have voted to table the project at that time, but the applicants indicated they would rather to be denied so they could appeal directly to City Council.

Most recently, City Council declined to review the project on June 2 because the proposed changes to the roof line had not yet been seen by Planning Commission.


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

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