Officials debate ski area future

Commission to vote Thursday


The future of Steamboat Springs' mountain village is on the table again Thursday night, when Planning Commissioners will consider adopting a plan that would guide future development at the base of Steamboat Ski Area.

City officials find themselves working to adapt to a sudden shift in thinking about how much density should be allowed in major new projects at the base of Mount Werner. Consultants for the city reversed themselves late last month, saying developers may need to be allowed to construct larger buildings to make redevelopment of the aging ski base economically feasible.

Sufficient density is needed to allow developers to provide expensive amenities such as underground parking and public spaces, consultant Stan Clauson said last month. But adequate density also is necessary to reinvigorate commercial centers at the base of the ski area, he said.

Planning Commissioners tabled the base area update of the Mountain Town Sub Area Plan at their Aug. 25 meeting. At stake is the Nov. 1 target date for lifting a moratorium on petitions for new development permits at the base of the ski area. City Council President Paul Strong, who attended Tuesday's Planning Commission work session, said he is in favor of a short extension of the moratorium.

"We can adopt the plan in time for Nov. 1," Strong said. "I've been the one on the council who has advocated keeping the moratorium as absolutely short as possible. But I think we need to extend it," perhaps to Dec. 1. "A month-long extension -- I'm not happy about it, but I can live with it."

City Council members are scheduled to act Sept. 13 on whatever recommendation the Planning Commission makes about the plan.

Strong said additional time would allow the city to formalize design guidelines in the plan. The guidelines are intended to ensure that new commercial and multifamily housing developments at the base of the ski area meet high standards that will result in an improved experience for visitors. The plan describes those guidelines in detail, Strong said, but until they are written into the city code, they cannot be enforced.

Planning Commission members tabled the plan two weeks ago after hearing consultants with Stan Clauson Associates reverse themselves about of whether the city development code includes sufficient density to make redevelopment of Steamboat's base area viable.

"We were working under the assumption all along that density was sufficient," Planning Commission Chairwoman Kathi Meyer said Tuesday.

Meyer said she isn't sure how Planning Commissioners will vote Thursday night but predicted that, like her group, the City Council will need a couple of weeks to work through the thinking about density. Mak------'ing density adjustments to the city code could take months, some speculate.

Clauson told Planning Commissioners during an Aug. 11 meeting that the density issue also speaks to the ability of developers to provide employee-housing units. His staff told Planning Commissioners that developers should be allowed to build denser buildings as an incentive to build the employee-housing units.

"You asked us to provide some way to approach the issue of affordable housing," Clauson said. "We have to ask whether the current (development) code provides sufficient density to allow redevelopment of the base area."

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205 or



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