Planning reviews car dealership

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The city Planning Commission had no qualms about allowing a car dealership to be built at the corner of U.S. Highway 40 and Curve Court but said it wants to see a high quality of architecture and landscaping.

The Planning Commission met Thursday night to review pre-application plans for the Cook Chevrolet Sales Facility, a 7,000-square-foot building and vehicle display area.

The 4-acre site, which sits just north of Windemere Landscaping and across Curve Court from the Steamboat Pilot & Today building, was approved for the Curve Hotel in 1998 and was once the proposed site for a Target store.

Because a car dealership is a conditional use in the zoning district, planning commissioners had to decide whether a car dealership was appropriate for the commercial area. All agreed it is.

"As far as the use, this is perfect for the area," Planning Commissioner Randall Hannaway said.

The applicant, Scott Cook, proposes to develop the front half of the site, leaving 2 acres undeveloped along Curve Court and Shield Drive.

The site plan includes a building with a showroom facing U.S. 40 and an outdoor, paved display area that could hold about 50 vehicles. About a dozen vehicles can be displayed at the perimeter of the site, some on elevated ramps.

In his presentation to the council, Cook said having a visible display area was a crucial component of the facility.

"We rely heavily on drive-by traffic for people to be able to just see (our inventory). We are a little bit different than, say, a bookstore. If they drive by it and don't see it, they just keep on going," Cook said.

The Planning Commission stressed the importance of having a well-designed building, saying the city required other buildings in the area to follow stringent guidelines.

"It is tough to make this type of facility look good. I have seen some in other areas," Hannaway said. "When they are done well, they can achieve the maximum exposure for what they want to sell but still remind people they are in a Colorado mountain town."

Planning Commissioner Dana Stopher said she would be looking closely at landscaping when the development plan came before them. She agreed with the staff's opinion that a greater effort could be made to locate trees and meet the city's landscaping standards.

One planning commissioner, Dick Curtis, asked if there was a way to lessen the amount of asphalt on the site and if it could become a mixed-use facility.

"I am really concerned about all that paved area," Curtis said. "Do we really want to pave paradise and put up a parking lot?"

Cook said they have plans to start building in the spring. The next step is to take the pre-application plan before the City Council. The new sales facility is less than half a mile down U.S. 40 from Cook's current dealership, Cook Chevrolet, Olds, Jeep, Subaru. The company will leave that facility when the new sales center opens.

The Planning Commission was adamant about requiring the developers to have a sidewalk, or at least a soft surface drive, that goes along U.S. 40 down Curve Court and around Shield Drive. The applicant proposed to build a sidewalk only on the portion of the site that was going to be developed.

Earlier in Thursday's meeting, the Planning Commission approved the preliminary plat of a three-lot commercial Curve Subdivision, which included the Cook sales facility. But in a 4-2 vote, the Planning Commission denied a variance request to delay the building of sidewalks until the development stage of the application.

Council members said that sidewalks should be put in at the time of the subdivision, to ensure sidewalks are consistent throughout the development.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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