Commission reviews condo plans

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Some Steamboat Springs planning commissioners said Thursday that plans for two condominium buildings and a private club next to the Steamboat Ski Area gondola were too high and too massive.

On Thursday, developer Whit--ney Ward presented plans for One Steamboat Place, which would be on a 4.2-acre parcel just south of the Steamboat Ski Area's Gondola Square and adjacent to the ski school.

Ward, who is partnering with Carbondale developers on the project, is proposing a six-story, 150,000-square-foot condo building with full-ownership units and a five-story, 100,000-square-foot timeshare building. Plans also call for two additions to the gondola building, one being a 10,000-square-foot private owners club and the other a 6,000-square-foot addition for the ski school.

Ward's project also proposes a private gondola from the Meadows parking lot intended for use by residents and guests at One Steamboat Place, the Alpine Club and Wildhorse Meadows.

Another important component to the plan is a plaza to connect Mount Werner Circle and the Gondola Transit Center, where shuttles and city buses drop off skiers, with the three proposed structures and Gondola Square.

Ward also is proposing to place a self-imposed real estate transfer tax on the initial and subsequent sales of Wildhorse Meadows and One Steamboat Place units. The money would go toward affordable housing, and Ward estimated that initial sales would bring in $2.5 million.

To provide those public benefits, Ward said the development needed the height and mass, which far exceed the city's zoning requirements.

"Without density, I don't think we can support all the things we are proposing," Ward said.

Four of the seven planning commissioners said they thought the height and mass were too much, but some said they could make concessions.

Planning Commissioner Dana Stopher said that she would prefer to see smaller units than the proposed 2,500- to 3,000-square-foot units. Smaller units would support the argument that, by allowing a higher density, there would be more residences, she said.

"My gut feeling is the buildings are too big for this property," Stopher said.

Planning Commission chairwoman Kathi Meyer worried that the height of the building would cast even more of a shadow on Gondola Square, which experiences very few hours of sunshine, she said.

Planning Commissioner Steve Lewis said he would be willing to accept the height and mass of the building if the developer agreed to provide a portion of employee housing in the units.

Earlier in the evening, Ward said he thought that affordable housing was not appropriate for a development that was offering million-dollar units. Instead, he proposed the real estate transfer tax.

"What we are offering is a much broader, much more significant long-term solution," Ward said.

Lewis agreed that the condos were not the right place for affordable housing for families, but he noted that single men and woman who work nearby would be a good fit for employee housing.

"I don't know how the base area is going to thrive if we don't find a way to put year-round citizens in housing," Lewis said.

Other planning commissioners agreed with Lewis and suggested that Ward add employee housing.

Stopher said she would like the proposed gondola running from the Meadows parking lot to the site to be open to the public.

"I think that has to be available to the public. I can't imagine that being private," Stopher said. "We can talk about Steamboat friendliness, but once you start having private clubs and private ways of getting to the mountain, you are going to go against the grain."

Ward had said he would consider opening the gondola for public transit purposes if public funding was involved.

Three of the planning commissioners said the height and size of the building did not bother them. Planning Commissioner Tom Ernst said the necessary public benefit could be found.

"I do think the project does have public benefit to the city by the pedestrian walkways through it," Ernst said. "Millions of people are going to walk through their property."

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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