Planning Commission denies Highlands zoning change

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— The Steamboat Highlands project will take its case to the Steamboat Springs City Council next month after the city Planning Commission rejected developers' bid Thursday for a zoning change on Burgess Creek Road.

A successful zoning map amendment is a necessary precursor for the 328,610-square-foot proposal's development plans. Planning commissioners did not review the project's development plans or community housing plan after the zoning map amendment failed in a tight 4-3 vote. Afterward, Planning and Community Development Director Tom Leeson told commissioners that the project's developers plan to appeal the decision at a June 2 City Council meeting.

The Steamboat Highlands parcel consists of two lots between Burgess Creek Road and Storm Meadows Drive. One is zoned G-1, a high-density resort designation, and the other is zoned RE-1, a low-density residential designation that allows only one unit per lot. Developers argued that the RE-1 zoning made no sense and wrote in a letter that the up-zoning to G-1 would "provide the ability for redevelopment with densities that further the intent : to create vitality and viability at the resort."

The lot in question is not bordered by any other lots with the same RE-1 zoning, and the lot is identified as "resort commercial" in a future land-use map in the Steamboat Springs Community Area Plan. City planners supported the proposed amendment.

"I think it's a very appropriate up-zone to G-1," Commissioner Brian Hanlen said.

Commissioner Dick Curtis agreed and said he supported the amendment because the project site is near other proposed high-density developments such as Ski Time Square and the St. Cloud Resort & Spa.

Others, however, think the site is too far removed from the ski base and too close to the residential neighborhoods of Burgess Creek Road.

"It definitely changes the character," Commissioner Sarah Fox said. "Burgess Creek has a certain character, and growing up here, that's very important to me."

Chairwoman Kathi Meyer said she could have supported a less ambitious zone change, but she said a jump from RE-1 to G-1 was too drastic.

"I just think that's way too high," she said.

Also Thursday, commissioners unanimously approved a code change limiting the size of residential units in Steamboat's industrial zones to 1,400 square feet and increasing allowable square footage for accessory uses or employee units in industrial zones to 50 percent of a project's total floor area.

During public comment, Mark Halvorson said limiting home sizes in areas zoned for industrial use was a mistake because those areas provide an affordable housing option for local businesspeople. He suggested limiting residential unit sizes to 50 percent of total floor area, too, rather than imposing a blanket limitation on square footage.

"There's so many people who are using them as housing," Halvorson said. "It meets a great need."

Leeson said the intent was not to eliminate live-work opportunities but to limit them and protect the character of industrial zones.

"We do not want to allow very large, four- to five-bedroom homes," Leeson said.

Planning commissioners also provided feedback to the proposed Steamboat 700 project seeking annexation into city limits, discussing several aspects of its annexation application including its affordable housing plan and infrastructure phasing plan.

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