Steamboat Springs City Planning Commissioners criticized a commercial site that proposed national chain restaurants and retail stores along Mount Werner Road.
During the pre-application hearing for the 8.5-acre site proposed by Resort Ventures, commissioners raised questions of overcommercialization, the community's need for national retailers, too much parking and incorporating housing with commercial lots.
The plan, know as South Village at Steamboat located just off U.S. 40, calls for 78,370 square feet of commercial space to house both national and local banks, retail stores, offices and restaurants. Located east of the Sinclair Gas Station and Central Park Plaza, the proposed six-building site is located in the Steamboat Village Commercial Center subdivision that stretches along U.S. 40.
Planning Commissioner Dana Stopher questioned the need for more commercial space that could encourage businesses to move out of the downtown area.
"I do have philosophical problems and emotional problems with most of the development," Stopher said. "My fear is that we will continue to create nicer types of developments and leave more and more empty buildings. That's a problem."
Along with the question of if Steamboat needed commercial development, commissioners asked if they wanted the kind of development Resort Ventures was proposing.
Whitney Ward, who owns Resort Ventures, said national restaurant chains such as Chili's, Applebee's and Outback Steakhouse have expressed interest in the proposed 5,000-square-foot restaurant. He also said Starbucks, five financial institutions and a real estate company have looked into the other buildings.
"This location begs for more family restaurants, begs for retail," Ward said.
But some commissioners said they would prefer to see local businesses that make Steamboat unique.
"Across the country we are seeing more and more of everything the same. We're seeing the same commercial buildings, the same type of design. Do we want that sameness for Steamboat Springs?" Commissioner Dick Curtis said. "Yes there is a demand here (for national chains), but yes we want more local shops. I'm certainly hoping for more local shops than national ones."
Curtis also commented that the architectural design of the buildings, which had gabled roofs and cast stone fronts, were appropriate for New England but not for the base of a Colorado ski mountain. The applicants said the proposed design promotes a village feel with the six buildings encasing a parking lot.
That village feel brought criticism from one community member.
"They say it has a feel of a village. We already have a village here. Something about the feel of the whole place doesn't feel like Steamboat and I do think that some housing would be nice in it," Stuart Orzach said.
Orzach, along with Planning Commission Chairwoman Kathi Meyer, brought up the idea of mixing the commercial development with residential uses, something she said other nearby commercial developers have proposed.
The pre-application process is intended for the commissioners to hear the applicants' plan and offer comments but not vote on it. Ward is looking to have the plan's final approval by September, which would let him put out bids in December and start construction by next summer. He said one retailer is hoping for a grand opening for Thanksgiving weekend in 2003.
Thursday night's meeting also had the pre-application hearing for a property adjacent to South Mountain Village. Strings in the Mountains Festival of Music proposed to relocated its tent to a 6-acre lot across from the ski area's Meadows Parking Lot and beside the South Village development. Right now, Strings shares the 20-acre lot with Trendwest, which is proposing to build 144 timeshare condos on the remaining land.
The parcel is located on the southwest corner of the intersection of Mount Werner and Pine Grove roads and would border U.S. 40.