Wildhorse Meadows discussed

Planning Commission: Development should not be exclusive

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Steamboat Springs Planning Commissioners said they did not want all the amenities offered in Wildhorse Meadows to be exclusive to its residents and guests.

From a proposed gondola to soft-surface trails and employee housing, planning commissioners said they wanted the public to feel welcome in the mainly residential development. Wildhorse Meadows is planned to be built on the 47 acres of open land behind the Steamboat Ski Area's Meadows parking lot and the city's tennis center.

The development would be accessed off Mount Werner Road, directly across from Steamboat Boulevard, or off Pine Grove Road and through the Meadows parking lot.

Developer Whitney Ward, who built the nearby Wildhorse Marketplace and is working with the former developers of Vail's Cordillera on the project, is proposing as many as 375 residences. The units would be a mix of condos, townhomes and single-family homes and would be divided into six development pods.

The development also would have a country store, restaurant, cafe, real estate sales office and a recreation center.

The most unique feature of the development is the proposal for a gondola that would take residents and guests from Wildhorse Meadows to Gondola Square at the base of the ski area. The gondola could carry as many as 400 people an hour.

On Thursday, the planning commissioners heard the pre-application plans for Wildhorse Meadows and gave their feedback.

"I think there will be a lot of chances for you as a developer to make sure this is not an exclusive neighborhood. Provide for public access as opposed to keeping out the public," Planning Commission Chairwoman Kathi Meyer said.

Above all, planning commissioners stressed that the proposed gondola, which would be next to the Meadows parking lot, should be opened to the public.

"We try not to be exclusive in this community, and everyone gets along," Planning Commissioner Tracy Barnett said. "If at all possible, work out the public access (to the gondola)."

David Hill, who is part of Ward's development group, said there were discussions with Steamboat Ski Area officials and city officials about opening the gondola to the public.

"At this point, we are feeling one another out," Hill said. "What is more important from the perspective of this plan is to be able to allow for it."

Planning Commissioner Cari Hermacinski suggested that the developers have an even higher density on the land, some of which could be used for employee housing. Other commissioners echoed Hermacinski's request to include employee housing in the plan.

As with the One Steamboat Place development, which is next to Gondola Square and also in the pre-application process, Ward said he would self impose a 0.5 percent real estate transfer tax on the sale and resale of the property. That tax from Ward's two developments is expected to raise at least $2 million from the initial sales, which Ward has said would be earmarked for affordable housing.

The planning commissioners said they did not mind the proposal to have some soft-surface trails as connectors between the pods of development and hard-surfaced trails for connections between other neighborhoods. However, they stressed the soft-surface trails should be opened to the public, as well.

Planner Peter Patten, who has worked on the project, said a key component was creating and enhancing the natural environment. Plans show open space scattered among the residences, a pond and sledding hill next to the private recreation center and creeks near the soft-surfaced trails.

Patten said dirt would be brought in to fill the sledding hill and that they would file for water rights on the Yampa River and Burgess Creek to create the water features.

The plans show five phases of development. Hill said the developers do not plan to do vertical building on the property. Instead, the developers intend to develop the master plan with detailed guidelines and then hand the building over to other companies.

Planning Commissioner Dick Curtis said he had concerns about having another company build the units.

"I think you folks have produced a very good concept. It is a concept the community would embrace. If these five pods sold separately, even though they have strict homeowners covenants, that doesn't always work," Curtis said. "You really need to be sticklers on the details to get what you want."

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229 or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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