Updated February 3, 2010 at 8:52 a.m.
Steamboat Springs City officials approved conceptual plans Tuesday for the redevelopment of Ski Time Square, while allowing a maximum of six years before final plans are submitted and raising questions about the project’s proposed commercial space and public benefits.
The Steamboat Springs City Council voted, 5-0, to approve the Ski Time Square development plan, which includes five buildings with about 200 condominiums and more than 27,000 square feet of commercial space on Ski Time Square Drive at the base of Steamboat Ski Area. Council members Jon Quinn and Kenny Reisman stepped down from the discussion and vote because of conflicts of interest.
The approval does not shed any additional light about when construction might begin at the ski base, but it does set a tighter timeline. City Council denied a request by developers The Atira Group for a 10-year vesting, or grace, period before submitting a final development plan, which has architectural and project specifics. City Council instead approved the six-year vesting period recommended by city planning staff and pleaded for Tuesday by a base area business owner.
“It’s really been a decimating last two seasons,” said Vail Kozatch, of Ambiente Home Furnishings & Gifts, 1875 Ski Time Square Drive. Kozatch said this winter season, she has heard visitors expressing disappointment in the base area.
Atira is redeveloping Ski Time Square and Thunderhead Lodge on behalf of Cafritz Interests, which purchased the properties in 2007. The former Ski Time Square buildings were demolished in 2008 with the exception of The Tugboat Grill & Pub.
In the worst-case scenario, Ski Time Square construction could be 11 years away. Atira theoretically could take six years to submit final plans, then three years to pull a building permit, with a possible two-year extension. Mark Mathews, Atira’s vice president of development, said he hopes the market allows construction well before that.
“Construction start doesn’t correspond to vesting period,” Mathews said. “We want to get started as soon as market conditions permit … and hopefully not bump against that six-year period at all.”
City Council gave Atira plenty of points to consider in creating its final development plan. Councilman Jim Engelken commended the project’s site plan and amount of open space but asked for more residences, commercial space and public benefit.
“In my view, 200 units in a project this size is inadequate. I think you need to double that,” Engelken said. “We want filled buildings.”
City code requires Atira to include more than $2 million worth of public benefits in the Ski Time Square project. But Engelken noted that Atira’s list includes a 30 percent contingency valued at more than $482,000; a stairway to Burgess Creek Road valued at nearly $100,000; ski racks; bike racks; a $5,000 flagpole and public seating areas valued at $558,000. Engelken called the public benefit plan “wholly inadequate” and said most of the amenities listed “would have been built anyway.”
“We’re giving credit for trash cans and flagpoles, for crying out loud,” Engelken said.
Council’s approval included a condition that Atira reach the required benefit amount without the 30 percent contingency. Mathews said public benefits will be more clear in the final development plan.
“We understand that we need to have a gold or platinum standard here,” Mathews said. “I think as we go through this, we’ll have no problem meeting the criteria.”
Councilman Scott Myller agreed with Engelken that more commercial square footage is needed, and Councilman Walter Magill said he hopes that commercial space allows for live music venues and restaurants to increase vitality at the ski base.
“We have heard loud and clear that we need to be considering more evening entertainment in this neighborhood,” Mathews said.
Engelken said he supported the project Tuesday because his objections are issues for the final development plan.
Also Tuesday, City Council approved medical marijuana dispensary licenses for D and C Medical Marijuana and Therapeutic Massage, at 410 S. Lincoln Ave.; Rocky Mountain Remedies, at 2750 Downhill Plaza; and Natural Choice Co-op, at 1169 Hilltop Parkway.