Sunny areas and warm pillows were among the top concerns of Steamboat Springs planning commissioners reviewing the draft of the Mountain Town Sub Area Plan update.
On Thursday night, the Planning Commission gave its first feedback on the plan, which consultants Stan Clauson Associates LLC have been working on since the winter.
In the spring, the consultants presented three alternatives for developing the area and listened to public feedback during a series of meetings. From those meetings, the consultants drafted the first version of the update. Some of the key elements to the plan include a promenade around the base of the ski area, opening up Burgess Creek at the base of the ski area, closing off a portion of Ski Time Square Drive for a pedestrian plaza, redeveloping two above-ground parking garages and the Knoll parking lot and creating a north entrance to the ski area between Torian Plum Plaza and the Sheraton Steamboat Resort.
Planning commissioners were in general agreement with the plan, but they had a few suggestions.
Sparked by comments from architect Eric Smith, planning commissioners worried that the proposed pedestrian plaza between Ski Time Square and Torian Plum Plaza would not be wide enough to provide sunny areas during the winter. They suggested developing density levels and height restrictions that would allow for more sunlight in the area.
"How the sun shines down, just be sensitive to that as you go forward," Planning Commissioner Tom Ernst said.
Planning commissioners also wanted to make sure that there was the right mix of permanent residences and timeshare units to keep dwellings occupied and the base of the ski area vibrant. The plan is partially predicated on the hope that more residential units will create more pedestrian activity and excitement at the base of the ski area.
"I think we need to monitor and study how to increase the warm pillows up there," Planning Commissioner Steve Lewis said. "We need to break that out as an area to pay extra attention to."
Affordable housing also was a hot topic Thursday night. Consultant Stan Clauson said that, realistically, the city does not have the funds to create affordable housing. After the year 2008, the plan shows for affordable housing programs to take place. Clauson said the most sensible area for affordable housing would be along Burgess Creek Road.
Employee housing, however, could occur throughout the redevelopment of the base area, Clauson said.
Planning Commission chairwoman Kathi Meyer said another crucial element of the plan would be creating architectural and design standards for the redevelopment that occurs.
"We desperately need it. It is such a critical component," Meyer said about the design standards, and she noted it is something the city has yet to set for the base area.
Almost all the planning commissioners who spoke Thursday night stressed that the hardest part of implementing the plan would be getting all the parties -- property owners, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. and the city -- to work together.
"The plan is great. I don't know if we have the community will or money to do it," Planning Commissioner Dana Stopher said. "There are a lot of people up at Ski Time Square that have traditionally not gotten along that need to get along."
The Planning Commission heard from property owners who were worried that the proposed changes in the plan would negatively affect their residences.
Joe Summers of Ski Time Square Condominiums said that owners have a deal through which they pay $1 a year to lease 80 parking spaces. If their condos are redeveloped and Ski Time Square Drive is rerouted in front of their properties and through the adjacent parking lot as proposed, that deal could go away, he said.
Jack Ferguson said that for owners at Mount Werner Lodge, the plan, as proposed, is unacceptable. The proposal to loop part of Ski Time Square Drive through the Sheraton front entrance and to Torian Plum Plaza would necessitate moving part of their building, Ferguson said.
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