'We need more'

Commissioners say Walgreens plan should have greater public benefit

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— A proposed residential and commercial development that would include a Walgreens drug store needs to provide more public benefit, Steamboat Springs planning commissioners said Thursday.

The project is a revised version of a plan commissioners were presented several months ago. The proposed development would be off U.S. Highway 40 and on both sides of the Steamboat Crossings commercial center. Walgreens would be set back from the highway, opposite Ski Haus.

The project's commercial element includes three one-story retail buildings, a one-story office building and the 14,820-square-foot, one-story Walgreens.

The city's "big-box" ordinance applies to the drug store because it would be a single-tenant commercial use of more than 12,000 square feet. Because it fits under the criteria of the big-box ordinance, the project will have to go through the Planned Unit Development process, which requires that public benefits of the proposal outweigh its environmental effects.

On Thursday, Scott Pedersen of Pedersen Development said the project's public benefits include improvements to the Yampa River Core Trail, creation of a conservation easement, transit-oriented design and affordable housing units.

The developers are offering to provide affordable housing within the residential part of the development, which would consist of 12 buildings containing 108 residential units. Seventeen of the units would be deed restricted. The number of proposed affordable units for the project are about equal to the amount of affordable units that would be required if the city passes an inclusionary zoning ordinance. Pedersen said he was aware of that possibility and asked commissioners whether they still saw enough public benefit in the project.

Their answer was: We want more.

"For me, I do think we need more than what's here," Commissioner Steve Lewis said. He told Pedersen that additional affordable housing units would help provide additional public benefit.

Commissioner Dick Curtis said he did not see a public benefit to the project. He suggested that the developer look into providing more affordable housing and using green, or environmentally conscious, building techniques.

Commissioners Dana Stoph--er and Kathi Meyer ag----reed with Curtis' suggestion. Green building promotes af----fordable living, commissioners stressed.

Lewis wanted to see more of the development's parking space used for residential units.

"I'm concerned that parking is essentially costing us density," Lewis said.

Curtis also wanted to see increased density.

"This would be an ideal location for density," Curtis said. Although he liked the green space and wetlands preservation proposed by the developers, he suggested that some of that space be used for more residential units.

Commissioners Lewis and Curtis said the architectural concepts have improved since they last saw the project.

"I think you're pretty close regarding the architecture," Cur----tis said.

Meyer still had concerns about the architecture, though she said it was greatly improved. All 12 residential buildings should vary somewhat in ap----pearance, she said.

Lewis and Stopher suggested the developers consider better use of Fish Creek. Stopher said a public benefit would be to providing a sitting area there.

Stopher also said she was concerned about the traffic pattern around Young Tracks Preschool and Child Care Center.

"I just think you're compounding the problems," she said. "You're going to make a really big mess there."

Meyer told those in attendance she thought a residential use near Young Tracks would be preferable to a commercial area. It would be much safer, she said.

During public comment, members of Young Tracks' board expressed concerns about safety as well as traffic near the school.

Steamboat Crossings business owners also had concerns.

Kathy Stokes, owner of PostNet, said the residential area should be moved back from the commercial area, making a more centralized block of commercial space.

"I don't imagine those folks want to live as close to us as we are compatible to them," Stokes said.

A couple of people, as well as commissioners, expressed concern about nightly renters living next to full-time residents. Commissioners asked Pedersen to look into avoiding nightly rentals.

Pedersen said he wanted to work with Young Tracks officials and also with business owners in Steamboat Crossings. At the end of the meeting, he also said he was optimistic that he could come forward with a project that planning commissioners and the City Council would like.

The City Council is set to review the pre-application Feb. 21.

--o reach Dana Strongin call 871-4229

or e-mail dstrongin@steamboatpilot.com

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