The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission's rejection of plans for a new community center once again creates an opportunity for the city to reconsider moving forward with the center as presently conceived.
We urge the City Council to seize that opportunity.
On Nov. 2, the Planning Commission called the community center's proposed design "blatantly institutional" and "extremely bland." In addition to the disapproving of the building's architecture, commission members opposed the placement of a parking lot close to U.S. Highway 40. The city's community development code requires a buffer of at least 30 feet between a roadway and parking area, and it encourages placing buildings, not parking spaces, along roadways.
The plans called for an 8,400-square-foot, $2.9 million center to be built on a 2.3-acre site bordering the Yampa River and adjacent to the Stock Bridge Transit Center west of Steamboat Springs. Looking at the commission's response, it's apparent that many of the commissioners think the Stock Bridge site isn't big enough to accommodate the community center and adequate parking.
But the city isn't giving up. The architects are going back to the drawing board to return with new plans for the City Council to review in December. Anyone want to guess how much more the re-designed building is going to cost? $500,000? $1 million?
We've pointed this out before, but it's worth repeating, especially as the council considers adding to the center's price tag:
n On June 6, the council voted 5-2 to build a $1.7 million, 5,250-square-foot community center at the Stock Bridge site.
n On June 26, the council changed its mind, settling on a $2.5 million, 7,300-square-foot building.
n On Sept. 19, the council approved spending an additional $477,000 for winterization, heating systems for the facility's sidewalks and patio, a geothermal heating and cooling system and other materials used to meet environmental efficiency standards.
We have never been fans of building a new community center, particularly at a site where it cannot be expanded. We've argued against it time and again. Yet, we find ourselves again pleading with the city - enough already.
Yes, a previous City Council pledged to replace the existing community center before it is demolished to make room for an expanded library. But, as the costs rise and the site proves to be less and less ideal, the city's stubborn commitment to spending millions on this new building starts to defy common sense. Besides, time is running out. As it stands, the city cannot realistically meet the August 2007 deadline to have the new community center built and open.
There are more efficient and practical options available, such as the new community recreation center that likely will come before voters next fall. Here is a thought - fudge on the pledge. Incorporate the functions of the community center into the plans for the new recreation center. In the meantime, work to find an interim solution to meet the community center's needs.
The community center is an important facility, but the fact is that its current and future usage do not justify the expense. This is a costly and bad plan, driven by a promise that should not have been made. It's time for someone on our City Council to say so before it's too late.