Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Steamboat Springs The Atira Group plans to contribute an additional $235,000 to affordable housing in a bid to loosen the tie vote that blocked approval of its Thunderhead project last month.
The redevelopment project at the base of Steamboat Ski Area was tabled until April after a motion to approve the project failed in a 3-3 vote of the Steamboat Springs City Council in February. Although there are seven City Council members, Councilman Jon Quinn has stepped down on items involving The Atira Group because he has done work for them privately.
Debate at the February meeting centered on the project's requested variances - including two proposed buildings more than 100 feet tall and 30 feet above code - and whether the project included enough public benefit to offset those requests.
At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Atira Vice President for Development Mark Mathews presented a revised summary of public benefits that included the $235,000 contribution. That amount is in addition to $2.6 million Atira already has proposed to pay to satisfy the city's affordable housing ordinance.
For projects seeking substantial variances at the base area, the city ranks public benefits by priority. Additional affordable housing is one of the city's first-tier public benefits. Atira already proposed a second top-tier public benefit, economic sustainability, by accommodating nightly rentals in the project.
In the second tier, Atira has proposed a public turnaround in Ski Time Square Drive and donating permanent space to the Yampa Valley Medical Center for its injured skier transport center. Also, the project will seek a silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Other public benefits include public restrooms, landscaping and other amenities.
Although Mathews said the revised public benefits made for a better project, he also didn't hesitate to note that the new proposal is more expensive, too. He said public benefits now account for 1.6 percent of the estimated construction cost of Thunderhead. Mathews said The Atira Group would not be able to accommodate some council members' request at the February hearing that the building be reduced in size by one story.
"The requested height we have is necessary to create a feasible project," he said.
All three council members who voted against the project in February - Meg Bentley, Walter Magill and Steve Ivancie - said Tuesday that Atira was on the right track toward winning their approval.
"I still have concerns with the height," Ivancie said, "but I think all along it just had to be mitigated with public benefit. : This goes a long way toward that."
- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210 or e-mail email@example.com