Council takes first look at Elkins Meadow

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— It wasn't easy for some City Council members to put aside personal feelings when they reviewed a development permit for Elkins Meadow, a 104-acre site south of Fish Creek Falls Road Tuesday night.

The pristine meadow, which has some critical elk and mule deer habitat, is on the table for development. City Council took a first look at the proposed 20-lot project in a conceptual review, which does not require a vote.

Recognizing the city may have had a chance to save the parcel from development about five years ago, council members lamented their missed opportunity.

"We may have really blown it," said City Councilman Ken Brenner, who said he runs by that property and enjoys the views. He, along with other council members who attached similar preambles to their statements, said the city should have bought the property when it had the chance.

About 35 members of the public showed up for the meeting, with some supporting the developer's idea and others asking the city to make him do more to preserve the meadow.

The developer, Paul Franklin of the Wharton Group, actually owns a parcel right across Fish Creek Falls Road from the meadow.

"I believe Elkins Meadow is probably the most pristine place in Steamboat," Franklin said. "As an adjacent landowner I'd like to keep it that way."

The property is owned by Steve Elkins and his family, which had also owned the space that now constitutes Centennial Hall. Standing at the podium Tuesday night, Elkins put the idea of having to accept change in perspective by explaining that, surrounded by the hi-tech equipment in the room, he was standing on ground where he had played as a boy.

The property is within the city limits and is thus allowed to be carved into a subdivision, even though it is across the street from 35-acre county lots.

City staff recommended to City Council and earlier to the Planning Commission that the lots, which are situated along Fish Creek Falls Road and the other side of the meadow adjacent to a steep hill, be more "clustered."

Planner Jeff Winston, however, said the "linear clustering" he had proposed preserves the meadow and allows the animals to maintain more of their habitat.

Neighbors and other community members who have seen elk migrate across the meadow or who have been able to ski along the ridge above it, however, said the developer was not doing enough to keep the meadow as good habitat for wildlife.

"To lose another piece of property that has been such a gold mine to our community I'd hate to see the continuity lost up in that area," said Karen Van Scoyk.

Council members made it clear to the developer that they would like to see some more clustering as well as possible home size restrictions to make sure the homeowners won't be building garish mansions by the meadow.

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