Steamboat Springs Developers, neighboring residents, planners and land-use experts all came together Thursday night at a Planning Commission meeting to try to balance the ideas of preserving Elkin's Meadow and allowing it to be developed.
The developer on the project, Paul Franklin of Chicago, doesn't think those interests conflict when it comes to his site plan. Franklin, in fact, owns a piece of land directly across Fish Creek Falls Road from Elkin's Meadow, a 104-acre parcel that rests above the Sanctuary and east of Huckleberry Lane. Franklin said he has no intentions of ruining his or his neighbors' views nor impeding on wildlife in the area a statement with which Steve Elkins, a current owner of the property, agreed.
Elkins said he had been holding out until he found someone who would deal with the land in a sensitive manner. And, despite many people's wishes to preserve the space forever, that was no longer a realistic scenario.
"As much as we all hate to see it change, it is a changing time for the whole community" Elkins said.
About 25 of the approximately 45 people who showed up for the meeting, however, did not think Franklin and his development group are doing a good job of protecting the particular charms of the property. The parcel, as shown in the applicant's 3-D presentation, offers exquisite views and contains critical habitat for elk and mule deer herds.
The density of the development was noted as a problem by many audience members used to skiing across the meadow and taking in its wide open vistas. The 20 lots the applicant plans to develop were deemed too many and their placement too diffuse by a majority of the crowd.
Planner Tom Leeson also pushed the developer to cluster the lots more on one area of the site to preserve open space.
The Planning Commission did not vote on the project, but offered comments to help the applicant figure out how to design the final project.
Planning Commissioners, who were complimentary of the project but may ask for a reduction in density or a greater degree of clustering of lots, bemoaned the potential loss of the parcel as an open meadow.
"In the best of all worlds the city should have bought it from the Elkins 100 years ago, but that's not what happened," said Planning Commissioner Dan Baker.
Members of the Planning Commission agreed with staff that the applicant should make further attempts to cluster the lots in one area, as well as making sure the public still has access to trails on the property.