City analyzes Riverwalk

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— Line by line, Steamboat Springs City Council members expressed their support or disapproval of aspects of the Riverwalk project Monday.

The meeting's tone differed greatly from the council's meeting Feb. 7, when at least a couple of members said they planned to deny the development plan application for the project, which was ultimately tabled for further review.

On Monday, council members focused on the proposed project and not on consequences for the Westland Mobile Home Park. The park would be demolished if the Riverwalk project were built. About 150 people live in the park's 39 homes. The loss of those homes, which are considered a source of affordable housing, was the reason some council members did not support the project last week.

The council went through each of the 10 variances from city code requested by developer Jim Cook for the project, which would be along Yampa Street and would have 72 residential units, 11 deed-restricted affordable units, 35 hotel rooms and more than 32,000 square feet of commercial space.

Because of the variances, the project must go through a more extensive review process than other projects. Officials must be convinced that the proposal's public benefits would outweigh the negatives associated with varying from the code.

Cook said benefits of the project include: walking areas, restoration to the bank of the Yampa River, improvements to part of Spring Creek, off-street improvements, drainage improvements, a sanitation up------grade, maintenance, a public art education transfer fee, affordable housing and relocation assistance to the residents of the mobile-home park.

"As we told you before, with this project, we were constantly challenged to take this project and make it the best we can," Cook said. The applicants have been working on the project for about three years, Cook said, and they've taken into account the comments of city staff, planning commissioners and council members.

Cook said there was a "chask" between the review by the city staff planning commissioners and that of the City Council. "What we'd like to do is get that worked out today," he said.

For the project, Cook has requested that the city vacate a right-of-way. Cook said the applicants would take over the maintenance of that area. He also has offered to give the city $1.25 million -- the appraised value of the right-of-way -- and has said that the money should go to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.

Cook offered a new proposal for that money Monday, based on the council's discussion last week. He said $250,000 should go directly to Westland residents and that he would match that $250,000. The remaining

$1 million would go to the housing authority. He also offered to pay for the relocation of the homes that could be moved.

"If we don't answer the right-of-way question, the rest of the points are moot," Cook said, calling the right-of-way the "meat" of the issue.

Council members Paul Strong, Towny Anderson, Loui Antonucci and Ken Brenner supported vacating the right-of-way.

Steve Ivancie and Susan Dellinger were against vacating the right-of-way.

"I'm uncomfortable taking this offer unless I know we're getting the best bang for our buck," Dellinger said.

Two variances that received a lot of discussion were parking and height. Cook's proposal includes nearly 30 fewer parking spaces than required by code.

Strong, Anderson and Antonucci said they could accept that variance; Brenner, Dellinger and Ivancie could not. Brenner wanted to see more underground parking.

"That's going to be pretty tough," Cook replied.

Ivancie said that only having one parking space per residential unit, which is what Cook proposed, was not practical.

Antonucci, Anderson and Strong supported the increased height variance. Strong said he was concerned about the height but that Cook's presentation showed that the additional height added public benefit.

Ivancie, Dellinger and Bren--ner said part of the proposal made them uncomfortable.

Council members concluded the meeting by discussing their perception of the public benefit of Riverwalk.

Anderson said he would like to see money set aside to extend the section of core trail that would be broken off to the side of the project.

Ivancie said the project has come a long way as far as design but that the project could be improved. "We're making progress when it comes to the public benefit, but we're not quite there yet."

Ivancie wanted to see the trail extended, and he wanted to see other height proposals.

Dellinger said she would like to "squeeze as much as we can" out of the public benefit aspect of the project. She also wanted to see the trail connected, and she wanted more money for the right-of-way.

Brenner also wanted to see the trail somehow connected, but he complimented Cook on his offer to provide affordable-living units.

"That really tips the scale for me," Brenner said.

The Riverwalk development plan and conditional use permit review is set to be heard by the council March 21. If those aspects of the project are approved, the Planning Commission and the council still would have to review the project's final development plan, which focuses on architecture, before the project can come to fruition.

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