Sunday, December 17, 2006
Steamboat Springs The development team that paid $25 million for the ski-in, ski-out Bear Claw III parcel in September has entered the city planning process with a two-pronged approach.
Atira Group of Edwards intends to build a multi-family resort housing project at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area. It would include about 230,000 square feet of net residential space.
Atira has approached the city seeking feedback on two distinctly different plans to achieve that goal. The first would involve constructing a single, 11-story building that originally was approved in April 1985. It would rival the existing Steamboat Grand Hotel in size, and Atira doesn't need substantial additional city planning approval to pursue a building permit and begin construction.
The second approach would create resort condominiums and townhomes in a group of smaller buildings intended to evoke the architectural style of buildings found in large ranch compounds.
Atira acquired the fully vested city approval for the single large building when it purchased the site. The developers intend to weigh the economic value of that pre-existing approval as they explore which of the two options to act on.
Atira has suggested to the city it would consider upgrading exterior building materials significantly from the stucco exterior and green roofing that were part of a 2001 city approval if it decides to act on the vested approval.
But both the developers and city planning staff seem to agree that the new multi-building plan has merit.
Brian Berndt, assistant director of planning services for the city, called the tentative multi-building approach to Bear Claw III a positive change from the single large building.
"I've told them I will do everything in my power to make this a reality," Berndt said. "It's a village versus a large building. It does much more of what the (Base Area Design Standards) anticipate. What's needed is to work toward a compromise we all benefit from."
He said he can't go further with his reaction to the preferred multi-building approach until Atira provides significantly more detail.
A spokesman for Atira said in a memo to the city that it is interested in the contemporary design approach, but has not turned away from the vested approval.
"The developer is sensitive to the vision for the base area and wants to explore options for conformity to that vision," the spokesman wrote. "The challenge for the developer has been to try and modify the current plan in such a way as to achieve this goal and at the same time maintain the economic value established by the current vested entitlement."
The spokesman for Atira said the development team hopes to use the pre-application process to help it decide which option to pursue.
Berndt said he anticipates that the discussion will center on the city's inclusionary zoning ordinance for affordable housing, the City Council's application of the ordinance and the associated costs for Atira. The ordinance was not in place in 1985 and so has no jurisdiction for the vested approval in Bear Claw.
City Planning Director Tom Leeson said representatives of Atira have expressed a strong interest in breaking ground this summer. Berndt said he has advised them that because of time constraints, he thinks it would be difficult to go through both a full pre-application process like the one they have just entered, and the necessary development permit process in time to begin construction this summer.
The principals in Atira include Garret Simon, Gerald Engle and Lance Badger. They previously have been founding partners for projects like Catamount in Steamboat, Cordillera in the Vail Valley, The Club at Crested Butte and Mayacama golf resort in the California wine country of Sonoma.
Atira formed a new partnership with institutional equity partners to purchase the Bear Claw III site.
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