Ridge Road ruling upheld

City Council votes in favor of Bear Berry Cottage

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— City officials upheld a ruling in favor of a vacation home rental permit on Ridge Road after a lengthy hearing Wednesday night.

In a quasi-judicial hearing that turned Centennial Hall into a crowded courtroom and caused homeowners and city staff to be sworn in and cross-examined by attorneys, the Steamboat Springs City Council denied two appeals of an October decision that supported the vacation home rental permit of Laurrelle Crawford, who manages a Ridge Road vacation home known as Bear Berry Cottage. Vacation home rentals are residential homes that are rented to short-term vacationers and sometimes used for private functions.

The council's decision means Crawford can continue renting Bear Berry Cottage to vacationers and guests, but must remove a tipi from the grounds and can no longer host weddings on the site.

Ridge Road resident Bill Moser is president of the Ridge Road Community Association, which hired attorney Richard Tremaine to appeal an October ruling that found Bear Berry Cottage in compliance with city regulations. Tom Leeson, director of city planning services, determined Oct. 12 that a revocation hearing before the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission was not necessary because Bear Berry Cottage met criteria listed in the city's Community Dev-elopment Code.

Crawford's neighbors disagreed.

"We'd like to see her license revoked," Moser said Wednesday, citing noise and traffic issues that he said result from Crawford's guests. "It's been quite a nuisance to us as homeowners."

Ridge Road residents, focusing on an Aug. 26 wedding at Bear Berry that included more than 100 guests and resulted in a visit from local police, called Crawford's rental practices "egregious" and "unbelievable." Marc Small, who owns property adjacent to Bear Berry Cottage, also appealed Leeson's October decision and hired attorney Jennifer Robbins to make his case.

Wednesday night, Tremaine and Robbins squared off against attorney Robert Weiss, hired by Crawford, in a lengthy proceeding that included more than five hours of testimony and concluded with the council's decision after 11:30 p.m.

Council President Pro-tem Steve Ivancie moved to uphold Leeson's ruling. Council member Towny Anderson cast the only 'no' vote, citing what he viewed as Bear Berry's violations to size regulations because of the home's large size.

"She is really devastated by this whole process," Weiss said of Crawford, who gave the council an extensive presentation regarding her compliance with city codes and efforts to reach out to her neighbors.

Due to the late hour, the council postponed a third appeal, involving a vacation rental home on Meadow Lane owned by Suzanne Noble. Planning Commission members voted unanimously in October not to revoke Noble's permit. That appeal will be heard by the City Council Feb. 6.

The City Council establis-hed a city ordinance regulating vacation home rentals in 2001, after several years of debate, and has since issued more than 50 vacation rental permits to homeowners and property managers in Steamboat Springs.

- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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