Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission on Thursday will consider a residential development plan for Elkins Meadow that is opposed by a group of residents trying to preserve the meadow.
Last fall, the Friends of Fish Creek Falls Meadow were unable to raise $4 million to purchase the property from the developer, Paul Franklin of the Wharton Group in Chicago. On Thursday, Franklin will ask commissioners to approve plans for a 20-lot subdivision on the 104-acre site.
The city's planning department will recommend approval of the development contingent upon receipt of an Army Corps of Engineers wetlands delineation report. If the report is not received by Thursday's meeting, staff will recommend the application be tabled.
Since March, the planning department has received 25 letters from individuals opposing the development and 43 letters from individuals asking that cross-country ski trails in the meadow be preserved.
The site is a wintering ground for elk and mule deer herds and offers one of the last pieces of open space along the route to Fish Creek Falls.
Assistant Planning Director Tim McHarg said the developer's plans call for much less density than the one unit per acre allowed by Agricultural/Rural Residential Land Use permits. "They tried to come up with a sensitive site plan," McHarg said.
Franklin purchased the 104-acres from the Elkins family last summer and gave the Friends of Fish Creek Falls Meadow until Jan. 9 to buy the parcel at cost and preserve it. The group did not meet the deadline to buy the land for $4 million.
The preservation group had hoped, with the help of the Yampa Valley Land Trust and the city, to link a trail system on the property to trails in the federally managed Fish Creek Falls area. The land would have been protected by a conservation easement.
Paige Boucher, who encouraged residents to write letters and attend the council and planning commission meetings, still has hope that the city could preserve the area.
"I feel like the city council and planning commission maybe still can come up with something for it not to be high density," she said. "It is a gem of a piece of property and I'd like to see it with lower density. They have the opportunity to defend these (lands)."
Birgitta Lindgren from the Steamboat Ski Touring Center is working with the developer to have the seven kilometers of ski trails returned to the Elkins Meadow. Those trails went away when Phase IV of the Sanctuary was built. A ski trail easement could be granted to the meadow to connect it to other trails.
Lindgren said the ski touring center is working with Franklin, but would not comment on the details of their negotiations.