Tuesday, November 13, 2007
If you go
What: Steamboat Springs City Council meeting
When: 5 p.m. today
Where: Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.
Call: City offices at 870-2060 for more information
5 p.m. Oath of office for new City Council members; selection of president and president pro-tem; new council orientation; introduction of council representative assignment list; proclamation of America Recycles Day; consideration of an appeal of an Oct. 11 denial by the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission for the Edgemont development at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area
7 p.m. (or the end of the meeting, whichever comes first) Public comment
Steamboat Springs On an agenda otherwise filled with orientation and ceremonial items, a newly seated Steamboat Springs City Council also will consider an appeal of the Planning Commission's Oct. 11 denial of the Edgemont development at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area.
The appeal could be considered an early litmus test for the City Council and its five new members. The parties involved in the Edgemont application, however, say the appeal should be as straightforward as the swearing-in ceremony.
City Council is not expected to consider overturning the Planning Commission's decision. Assistant Planning Director John Eastman said city staff is recommending that the City Council remand consideration of Edgemont back to the Planning Commission.
And Garrett Simon, vice president for development for Edgemont developers The Atira Group, said it is not Atira's intention to circumvent the Planning Commission.
"We're not appealing the decision," Simon said. "We're using this procedurally to get it back in front of (the Planning Commission)."
Simon and Eastman said the appeal was not strategically planned to appear before the new City Council as opposed to the old one.
"This was the fastest we could do it," Simon said. "There was no hesitation. We're moving as quickly as we can. We could not have gotten in front of council any sooner. There was no chance for us to get in front of the previous council, and we would have been happy to do it."
The Edgemont project was the topic of a contentious Steamboat Springs Planning Commission meeting Oct. 11. Planning commissioners voted, 4-3, against Edgemont's application. The project, formerly known as Bear Claw III, has a vested approval from 1985, but The Atira Group has vastly altered plans for the development.
The project approved in 1985 included a massive condominium structure, an amenities building and a spa. The new proposal includes two large condominium buildings with seven smaller duplex buildings. The total square footage of the new proposal is smaller than the original plan. Although all planning commissioners agreed that the new proposal is greatly superior to the old one, the majority agreed with a city staff assessment that the project does not meet the city's Community Development Code requirements for a revision to a vested approval and should take additional steps toward conforming to current city codes.
Since the denial, Atira has met with city staff and altered its application to the point that Eastman said the planning staff would be willing to recommend the project for approval. Atira reduced the height of the larger of the two condominium buildings by about 20 percent. Simon said it was previously designed to be 109 feet at its highest point and is now about 90 to 95 feet at the same spot. Eastman said the reduction fixed "the primary problem in terms of visual impact" with the project. Other improvements include off-site pedestrian improvements and a detailed plan for energy efficiency.
"When we looked at all of that together, we felt it was appropriate to send it back to Planning Commission for consideration," Eastman said.
The appeal procedure being used to get the application back to the Planning Commission is unusual, and Eastman acknowledged that it amounts to a roundabout tabling of the application when a Planning Commission denial usually requires a new application.
"We don't apply the transitional provisions for vested approvals very often," Eastman said. "I don't want to encourage other developers to think that they could change the application after a motion for denial. In most cases that's going to require a new application. This is something we would not normally support : because that would encourage developers to circumvent the process."
Cari Hermacinski, who will be sworn in to the City Council's at-large seat tonight, agreed that the Edgemont appeal would be simple.
"It seems like it's a pretty straightforward thing," said Hermacinski, who as a planning commissioner was in the minority that voted against Edgemont's denial. "I think there's some bigger litmus tests coming down the road."
Although the Edgemont decision might not reveal too much about the new City Council's approach to development, it should provide a hint as to how Hermacinski and fellow planning-commissioner-turned-council-member Scott Myller will handle their consideration of projects that they also considered on the Planning Commission.
While it will be up to City Council members to decide, Planning Director Tom Leeson said he thinks the two should step down on considering Edgemont and any other development applications that come up that they have already heard and commented on in a public hearing.