City seeks demolition change

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The City Council may require developers to have development plans in place before tearing down buildings.

The move is in response to plans to demolish the Harbor Hotel on Lincoln Avenue.

At Tuesday's meeting, the Steamboat Springs City Council directed City Attorney Tony Lettunich to research ordinances that would require some kind of development plan to be approved before buildings are demolished.

The discussion was sparked by a demolition permit that was pulled by developers intending to tear down the Harbor Hotel. A mixed-use building with retail and residential units would replace the hotel.

Council members said the city would be in a difficult situation if the Harbor Hotel is torn down and half of a block in one of the most important intersections in the city is left vacant.

Council members noted that in situations where buildings are torn down and lots are left vacant for long periods of time, the city loses its leverage in encouraging developers to restore historic buildings.

"It could be demolished this winter without a plan in place to rebuild it. It could take years to rebuild it," Councilman Loui Antonucci said. "I don't know if there is anything at this point we could do."

The City Council has yet to see the plans for what will replace the historic hotel at the corner of Seventh Street and Lincoln Avenue. On Aug. 31, the Historic Preservation Commission put a 90-day waiting period on demolishing the hotel because of the building's historical, architectural and geographic importance.

If the council approved new regulations within the Historic Preservation Commission's 90-day waiting period, the developers could be required to comply, Lettunich told the council Tuesday.

Under state laws, governments cannot enforce new regulations or code changes to development plans that have been submitted to the planning department; however, the same protection does not apply to demolition permits, Lettunich said.

"They can't do anything for 90 days, and we can change the law and make it retroactive to their permit," Council President Paul Strong said. "I do have some basic concerns with fairness."

Councilwoman Kathy Con--nell worried that enacting any regulations on the developers after the demolition permit was pulled could lead to lawsuits.

"What is the position we would be put in for potential lawsuits by changing the rules? I think we really need to understand that," Connell said.

Historic preservationists have called the Harbor Hotel a city landmark, one of the last commercial buildings that displayed the international style of architecture. They also said the building is a tribute to the town's history of tourism.

The hotel was built in 1939, a year after the well-known Cabin Hotel burned.

At the Historic Preservation Commission meeting, Realtor Jim Cook, who is working with the project, said restoring the Harbor Hotel is not economically feasible.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com.

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