Elkins Meadow plan approved

Planning Commission tells opponents development proposal meets requirements

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— The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission approved a 20-single-family home development for Elkins Meadow Thursday, despite pleas to preserve the area as open space.

For the last year Elkins Meadow neighbors and other community members have been trying to preserve the land that is one of the last pieces of open space heading toward Fish Creek Falls.

The planning commission approved the preliminary plat plans 6-0 Thursday night. Planning commissioners David Baldinger Jr. and Dan Baker told the group of concerned citizens that the commission's role is not to protect open space, but to make sure developments follow code.

"When a project comes to us, our purpose is to determine if it meets codes and other requirements, and this does," Baker said. "I wish you guys would have succeeded. It would have been wonderful. But, if this project is actually done, we will have done everything to contain development in that area."

Elkins Meadow developer Paul Franklin had given the Friends of Fish Creek Falls Meadows until January 2002 to come up with $4 million to purchase the property. After two extensions, the group was still some $3 million short.

During Thursday's presentation to the commission, Franklin said the site plan is designed so that the 20 houses, expected to be around 8,000 square feet, would be out of the view of motorists driving along Fish Creek Falls Road. Franklin said of the 104 acres, 43 will be open space and 90 percent will be left undisturbed.

Tucked into wooded areas and at the bottom of slopes, the houses are designed to keep the meadow open, said Jeff Winston, whose Boulder-based firm worked with Franklin.

"The meadow is the primary feature that we are trying to preserve," he said. "The sites of our homes preserve the view corridor."

Franklin also has agreed to put trails on the property, including one along Fish Creek Falls Road. He is also in negotiations with Steamboat Ski Touring and Snow Shoeing Center for placing cross country ski trails through the meadow or along Sanctuary Ridge.

A handful of local residents stood before the commission to protest the development, although some said it is probably too late to stop homes from going up in Elkins Meadow.

"The city should have started a campaign to save it long before we did. We need to act now if we don't want to look like Vail Valley," neighbor Paige Boucher said. "I think it is time to become more land friendly and less easier to work with developers."

After public comment, Baker said the developer had worked with the neighbors to preserve the land.

"We are greatly concerned about the community. But, the community had a chance to buy the property," he said.

Lisa Benjamin, who had at one time offered to sell her house and donate the money toward preserving the meadow, said she appreciates the effort Franklin has put into the project, but is disappointed in the public support that has dwindled since January.

"The developer is trying to do a good job and I truly feel that. But, at this point there is not a lot of people in the community and support for (Elkins Meadow) and keeping it as beautiful as it is," she said. "I would like to see a lot more people for the city council meeting."

To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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