Ski Time Square plan flexible

Proposed looped road stirring debate; alternatives raised

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If you go

What: Steamboat Springs Planning Commission meeting

When: 6 p.m. today

Where: Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.

On the agenda:

- Permit for the Steamboat Ski Area's temporary music tent in The Knoll parking lot

- Consideration of a final development permit for InSpiritu Verde, a proposed live/work development at the corner of Oak and Fourth streets.

— The fate of a proposed looped road replacing Ski Time Square Drive will be on the table tonight during a meeting of the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission.

Planning Services Manager John Eastman is seeking direction from the commission about revisiting plans for the road, described in the November 2005 Mountain Town Sub-Area Plan Update. The looped road originally was envisioned to foster a pedestrian-friendly ski base.

Ski Time Square Drive dead-ends near the Christie chairlift at the Steamboat Ski Area. The aging commercial strip along the north side of the road is being torn down as Atira Group, acting for Cafritz Interests, pursues redevelopment.

The road is becoming a sticking point as redevelopment plans progress.

The sub-area plan went through a series of public hearings before adoption three years ago. It recommends converting the dead-end road into a loop in order to transform the commercial frontage into a pedestrian environment. But the plan also opens the door to two other alternatives, which would not involve the expense of converting to a looped road.

"The plan clearly provides the flexibility to allow redevelopment with or without the loop road, provided that the overall goal of a revitalized and pedestrian-friendly base area is achieved," Eastman wrote in a memo to Planning Commission.

Before the looped road could be built, access would have to be granted to a landscaped area controlled by the homeowners association of the Ski Time Square Condominiums. Additionally, a 99-year lease that grants condo owners parking in the existing underground garage would have to be terminated.

Atira Group Vice President of Development Mark Mathews told the Urban Redevelopment Area Advisory Committee in June that negotiations with the association had not been fruitful.

However, Joe Somers, president of the association, wrote a letter to Steamboat Springs City Council stating that his group would agree to provide the necessary access for the looped road as long is it receives "security" to ensure its parking spaces will be restored in the future.

"We want to be clear that we do not think STS Condos is the insurmountable hurdle to making the preferred plan a reality," Somers wrote.

Mathews and other members of the mountain resort community say the results of a retail study of the ski area base suggest a pedestrian commercial environment along Ski Time Square Drive might not work anyway, because the area would lack sufficient parking and a ski lift on the upper end to attract shoppers.

Chris Diamond, president and chief operating officer of Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., wrote a letter to city officials in favor of abandoning the plan for a looped road.

"We support maintaining Ski Time Square Drive in its same general location," Diamond wrote. "This configuration is also supported by the proposed St. Cloud development, further supported by the recent retail study and vetted amongst many base-area properties. We feel it is time to move away from the 2005 upper loop road concept."

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