Green going gold

Commission supports downtown Inspiritu Verde plan

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— The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission showed Thursday that it is willing to bend a little for projects that commit to green building practices.

Commissioners voted in support of a development plan and final development plan for Inspiritu Verde (translated "inspired green"), a proposed 4,711-square-foot, mixed-use development at the northeast corner of Fourth and Oak streets. The project, which would replace two yellow, stucco 1949 duplexes with two new buildings, aims to be the first in the city to earn a "gold" Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Commissioners reasoned that the project's public benefits, which include a voluntary affordable housing unit and storm water and sidewalk improvements in the public right-of-way, compensated for its variances from the Community Development Code. Variances include a 34 percent increase in the allowable ratio of floor space to lot area, a 5-foot increase in the building's average plate height and encroachment on three of the 7,000-square-foot lot's building setback requirements.

"It's just too big," Mark Burin, who lives in the 400 block of Pine Street, said during public comment. "I just don't think it's appropriate for this area of town."

Unusually, city planners recommended approval of the project while their historic preservation staff recommended denial due to the project's mass, scale and proposed architecture. Citing mass and scale, Planning Commission Chairwoman Kathi Meyer cast the sole "no" vote against Inspiritu Verde's development plan before joining a unanimous approval of the final development plan.

Director of Planning and Community Development Tom Leeson reminded commissioners that they were reviewing the project under the city's "planned unit development" criteria. Leeson said the criteria were developed "to encourage innovative development" and "creativity" that might not be possible under strict adherence to the CDC.

"I truly believe this is innovative site planning," Planning Commissioner Dick Curtis said. "And I truly believe the applicant (Denver architect John Buchanon) is committed to being as green as possible. We haven't seen an applicant in this city this committed. We need to set an example.

"There's going to be compromises," Curtis continued later. "In this particular case, I'm willing to accept that."

Also Thursday, commissioners unanimously approved the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.'s application for a temporary music tent in the Knoll Parking Lot. Ski Corp.'s Music Fest, Ski Jam, Family FunFest and Cowboy Downhill events all include live music acts that will be held in the tent from Jan. 6 to Jan. 20. The tent displaces 136 of the Knoll lot's 450 parking spaces.

Removed from the Planning Commission agenda was a discussion about a proposed looped road to replace the existing Ski Time Square Drive. City planners initially had planned to seek direction about possibly revisiting plans for the road, described in the November 2005 Mountain Town Sub-Area Plan Update as a preferred alternative. The looped road was envisioned to foster a pedestrian-friendly ski base.

The road has become a sticking point in The Atria Group's redevelopment plans for Ski Time Square and Thunderhead Lodge. Leeson said he decided the looped road, or lack thereof, should be considered during review of Atira's redevelopment.

"This is not the appropriate venue," Leeson said. "We felt there's enough flexibility in the plan that we didn't need to revisit the master plan."

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210 or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

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