Our View: Elkins Meadow plan should be approved

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Pardon Paul Franklin if he is a little frustrated.

Franklin is the owner of the 105-acre Elkins Meadow. He wants to build 20 luxury homes in the area, but the city is making it as difficult as it can for him to do that.

On Tuesday night, the Steamboat Springs City Council gave Franklin a laundry list of changes the council would like to see made to his development.

Council President Kathy Connell wants fewer lots. Council member Arianthe Stettner wants more clustering of homes and changes to the plan to lower the impact on wildlife. Council member Loui Antonucci wants smaller homes. Council member Bud Romberg wants lower skylines along Fish Creek Falls Road.

The council told Franklin to come back on Sept. 3 with new plans that addressed their concerns. "I feel like the developer gave 105 percent with this plan, but on something this important, it needs to be 110 percent," Connell said.

Some might argue Franklin has already given the community more than 110 percent, certainly more than many developers would.

When a group called the Friends of Fish Creek Falls Meadow argued for preservation of the meadow, Franklin gave the group several months to buy the meadow for $4 million.

The group couldn't raise the money by January.

When residents worried that the development would mean the loss of cross country skiing through the meadow, Franklin worked with the Steamboat Springs Ski Touring Center to preserve ski trails through the property.

Twenty lots on 105 acres is a much lower density than is allowed. The lots encircle the meadow in a way that preserves sightlines and views of the meadow itself. A Division of Wildlife representative said Tuesday night elk in the area would likely adapt to the development as proposed and continue to use the meadow.

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission noted that the development met all codes and approved the plan.

Steve Elkins, who sold the property to Franklin, noted that his family had the meadow on the market for 10 years.

There was plenty of opportunity for the city to acquire and preserve the meadow. But while the city has done an admirable job of acquiring open space in the past decade, the meadow was never a priority.
Until, it seems, Franklin wanted to develop it.

On Tuesday night Council Member Paul Strong correctly noted that the city doesn't have much leeway in preventing the development. Franklin "has the right to use the land as he sees fit within our laws and our law is the Community Development Code," Strong said. "As long as he is doing that, I don't think we have the right to tell him 'no.'"

Strong is right.

Franklin has already gone above and beyond what the community asked of him in developing the meadow, and the city shouldn't be asking him to jump through more hoops now.

As for the residents who keep showing up to protest Franklin's plans, it seems their time would be better spent identifying other land they can preserve because the opportunity to stop the development of Elkins Meadow has long since passed.

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