Photo by Matt Stensland
Sharon Stinson and Bruce Friedlander of Florida walk Friday afternoon past the proposed site for the Steamboat Highlands development.
Steamboat Springs A proposed development at Burgess Creek Road and Storm Meadows Drive faced skepticism from the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission and neighbors of the property Thursday.
The 2-acre, 427,039-square-foot Steamboat Highlands development would include 195 resort lodging residential units, about 17,000 square feet of commercial space and an underground parking structure. The Planning Commission reviewed the project's pre-application at Centennial Hall and raised strong objections to its proposed scope, requested variances and relation to the surrounding neighborhood.
The Steamboat Pilot & Today reported in April that the owner of the development is Gamir/Reilly Development, a real estate development and management company that has built hotels and condominium projects in Mexico. Jeff and Kristi Brown of Steamboat Springs sold the site in November 2007 for $11.5 million to Ski Country, LLC, based out of Nevada.
Brian Bavosi, project manager for Vertical Arts in Steamboat Springs, presented plans that show a portion of Steamboat Highlands would stand about 142 feet tall, which is 79 feet over the current height allowance.
Burgess Creek runs along the western portion of the property. Proposed plans involve daylighting and reconstructing the creek to include waterfalls, pools, vegetation and a raised walkway for pedestrians and cyclists. Developers also proposed a pedestrian overpass on Burgess Creek Road that would connect existing open space trails to the property.
Developers have requested two variances for Steamboat Highlands: the height increase and a setback variance allowing the building to be set back 12 feet from the high-water mark of Burgess Creek, rather than the required 50 feet.
Planning commissioners indicated disapproval of the height proposal for the buildings and were hesitant to allow the reduced setback.
"It's just too massive and too tall," Commissioner Sarah Fox said. She mentioned concerns about the potential for extensive shadowing on Burgess Creek Road that could result in safety issues in the winter when the road is covered in snow or ice.
Commissioner Cedar Beauregard worried that such tall buildings at the base area would create a "privacy fence" and prevent others from enjoying the view, possibly resulting in decreased property values outside of the base area.
In response to the Burgess Creek setback, Commissioner Rich Levy felt the building would create a canyon effect and encroach upon the creek.
To compensate for the requested variances, Bavosi highlighted various elements of the development that would increase public benefit.
He proposed purchasing a plot of land between Highway 40 and Walton Creek Pond west of Weiss Drive to be donated to the city and used to construct 76 affordable housing units.
Developers also said Steamboat Highlands will contribute to the vibrancy of the base area through a mix of occupied residential units and condo-hotel units. Bavosi added that they are considering pursuing LEED certification through energy efficiency and sustainable design.
Lastly, he cited planned improvements to Burgess Creek, expansion of the existing pedestrian trail system and the overpass as public benefits.
Planning commissioners did not agree that the public benefits merited the variances requested.
The planning commissioners agreed that the proposed plans were out of context compared to the surrounding area. Commissioner Dick Curtis said "It's the perfect area for density but not that kind," adding that the proposed development would increase traffic beyond a level that Burgess Creek Road could safely handle.