Base-area plan draft revealed

City Planning Commission, public to see report tonight

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The Mountain Town Sub Area Plan Update contains very few surprises.

From a promenade around the base of the ski area to looking at building a conference or arts center where the Steamboat Ski Area parking garage sits, many of the proposed changes in the draft plan were hashed out during community meetings this spring.

The draft will be presented to the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission tonight. It will be the Planning Commission's first time to give collective feedback on the plan, and it will be a chance for the public to comment.

City Assistant Planning Director Tom Leeson said he encourages the public to attend and give feedback about the plan.

"These public hearings are their opportunity to make comments on the plan. It is important that we hear from the public, and I encourage the public to attend and comment," he said.

This fall, the city hired Stan Clauson and Associates LLC to update the Mountain Town Sub Area Plan. In the spring, the consultants presented three alternatives for developing the area and took public feedback during a series of meetings. From those meetings, the consultants drafted the first version of the update.

Among other things, the plan's suggested first step to improving the base area includes designing and implementing a wayfinding and signage plan for Mount Werner Road, the ski area and Ski Time Square.

It also recommends making streetscape improvements and beautifying Mount Werner Circle with raised crosswalks, alternative-paving materials, light fixtures, trashcans and benches. Removing Checkpoint Charlie at the entrance of Ski Time Square is another item in the plan.

Among the first suggested improvements for private landowners is to initiate designing and building a promenade to run along the base of the ski area from Ptarmigan Inn to Torian Plum Plaza. The plan also recommends creating a wayfinding and signage plan within Gondola Plaza and Ski Time Square Drive, and improving the drop-off area into the ski area and off AprÃs Ski Way.

The long range plans -- and perhaps the more dramatic changes -- include determining if a conference or arts center is necessary and if it should go where the ski area's parking lot sits.

Other recommendations include closing part of Ski Time Square Drive for a pedestrian plaza and rerouting the road through the parking lot in front of Mountain Movie.

The plan also proposes a public/private partnership to expose Burgess Creek and to install a new or relocated chairlift at the base of the gondola to create a north entrance into the ski area near Torian Plum. To go along with these improvements, the plan also suggests that private dollars be used to develop a new Torian Plum and Thunderhead Plaza with an ice skating rink and water features.

The plan, in its five- to 15-year projections, also proposes the elimination of the parking garage at the intersection of Mount Werner Road and Ski Time Square Drive and the Knoll parking lot. In their place, the plan proposes building hotel and residential units with underground parking.

The plan also calls for redeveloping Mount Werner Lodge as a resort residential neighbor.

Leeson acknowledged that not all the suggestions in the plan will please everyone.

"There is general consensus on most of the elements of the plan. In a couple elements, there will not be consensus, and there may never be consensus. But they are important elements of the plan that should remain in there," Leeson said.

He also said that long after the plan is approved, the city would have to work together and negotiate with property owners to achieve the goals set forth in the plan.

Even before the plan's draft is reviewed by Planning Commission, the city moved forward with the next step needed to implement improvements to the base area. For about $50,000, the city hired consultants Clarion and Associates and Civitas.

For the next three to four months, the consulting firms will look at building and architecture designs, urban design and changes in the Community Development Code needed to ensure that what is proposed in the plan is implemented by developers.

The city intends for those revised codes to be in place before a moratorium is lifted on Nov. 1. In March, the city imposed a moratorium on all development- and final development-plans in the base area. The moratorium allowed the city to proceed with updating the area plan without the worry of new plans being submitted in the base area, which, by law, would not have to follow the changes.

The update of the plan is tied closely to the creation of the urban renewal authority this winter. The intent of the URA is to raise money to fund public improvements in the vicinity of the base of the ski area.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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