High-density development's future uncertain

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— Developers hoping to build houses on a 6.27-acre site next to the Steamboat Crossings shopping center have hit some obstacles in the city planning process.

In May, Rob Dick, Kathy Crawford, Ed and June MacArthur and Mark Halvorson submitted plans to the city planning department that would turn the empty land in between the railroad tracks and U.S. Highway 40 into 46 residential units, including some live-work units.

Dubbed the Cottagewood Neighborhood, the plan called for cottages, bungalows or duplexes. The homes would sit on 1,700- to 3,000-square-foot lots and are geared toward mid-range pricing that would attract working families.

The plans also include some live-work units next to the commercial buildings in the Steamboat Crossing plaza and the idea of incorporating a health club into the new development.

In their application to the city, the developers said there was an economic need for commercial units to be owned by local business owners. Many times, local business owners who rent find themselves at the mercy of their landlords, similar to mobile homeowners, they said.

"Their ability to succeed in this community is tied to the lease rates and terms of their lease. Every effort will be made to accommodate local business owners who want to purchase a live/work unit," the application stated.

The kinks in the plan came at a preliminary planning meeting on Wednesday. Namely, staff felt development can hold no more than 24 residential units, almost half of the planned number. Also, staff said the development needs to have 25-foot setbacks from wetlands and sidewalks parallel to U.S. Highway 40.

Limiting the site to 24 units could mean not doing the project, Dick said.

"We are evaluating now what the city told us, what they think will work. We will redesign it to see if it makes any sense or maybe just walk away from it," he said.

Although bordering commercial land, the site is zoned for one home per acre. The applicants have not purchased the land, but its current owner previously thought the land was zoned commercial, Dick said, which would have allowed for high-density residential units.

"We found out that it was zoned RE-1 (low-density residential) we thought we would still do a PUD and look at if we can get enough density to justify the project," Dick said.

With the cost of land and infrastructure, Dick said the one-home-per-acre zoning would mean developing higher end homes, a project he said they are not interested in doing.

The developers are also looking at wetland issues and the environmental impacts the development would have.

Dick said they like the site because of its proximity to Steamboat Crossing, which houses restaurants, a day care center and Post-Net, and is also near a grocery store, the Yampa River Core Trail and public transportation.

"We see this as the perfect place for workforce housing. The sight is centrally located near many commercial establishments and the Core Trail, which we feel will significantly reduce dependence on the automobile given the proximity to the bus stop. One living at this location would not even need an automobile and certainly a family could get away with one as opposed to multiple automobiles," the application reads.

-- To reach Christine Metz, call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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