CMC President Stan Jensen said the Steamboat Springs City Council’s “somewhat lukewarm” response Tuesday night has, at least, significantly delayed plans for the college’s proposed new building and an access road at Lincoln Avenue and 13th Street.

Photo by Matt Stensland

CMC President Stan Jensen said the Steamboat Springs City Council’s “somewhat lukewarm” response Tuesday night has, at least, significantly delayed plans for the college’s proposed new building and an access road at Lincoln Avenue and 13th Street.

CMC roadway plans stalled in Steamboat

Council’s concerns about intersection, hillside throw wrench into proposal

Advertisement

— Two days after a bruising public hearing in Centennial Hall last week, Colorado Mountain College President Stan Jensen was uncertain about the future of a massive project proposed for CMC’s Steamboat Springs campus.

Jensen, who administers CMC’s 11 campuses across the Western Slope, said the Steam­boat Springs City Council’s “somewhat lukewarm” respon­se to the presentation of initial roadway plans Tuesday night has, at least, significantly delayed progress on the college’s proposed new building and access road for its Alpine Campus on a hilltop above downtown Steamboat.

CMC is proposing a 50,000-

square-foot administrative and classroom building, along with a new access road that would wind up the hillside on the north side of Lincoln Avenue at 13th Street. Jensen said the project would be “by far” the largest CMC has undertaken. Cost estimates vary, but the price tag could reach $23 million. Jensen said the road alone could cost as much as $8 million. The building’s cost is estimated at $15 million.

Members of the public and City Council raised concerns Tuesday about the viability of building a road to access a site already constrained by limited space and the road’s impact on the hillside at the western entrance to downtown. Also at issue were the road’s effect on the much-debated 13th Street intersection and its encroachment on Iron Springs and West Lincoln parks, which lie on the northeastern and southwestern side of the intersection, respectively.

Jensen said plans for the project now are very much up in the air.

“We now have to look at other alternatives,” Jensen said Thursday. “I think what I took away (from the hearing) is this real hesitancy with us and to really be a true, full-fledged partner. We still want to be a partner, but I think our next move … is to try to come up with other thoughts.”

Tuesday’s hearing was a pre-application for CMC’s proposed access road. Pre-application hearings are a precursor to the formal city planning and approval process. Jensen said plans for the project resulted from 16 months of preparatory work with city planning staff and fire officials, at a cost to CMC of about $500,000.

Renderings of the proposed new intersection show cuts into the corners of Iron Springs and West Lincoln parks, in order to align the road into a straight intersection across Lincoln Avenue.

“This is going to so negatively impact the historic hot springs and the park,” Councilwoman Meg Bentley said. “I love the college, I love what it does for our community … but this road is not right. I want to look at alternatives.”

Councilman Jon Quinn questioned whether the hilltop site could handle the college’s future growth.

“There are huge challenges to this particular site and this particular project,” Quinn said. “If you’re going to outgrow this site in 20 years, then maybe this isn’t the right project.”

Sarah Catherman said she

and her husband, Robert Ells­worth, live at 1238 Crawford Ave. in a house dating to 1897. She said the new access road would place cars at a level with their bedroom window and create impacts — to the hillside, as well as her home — without adequate plans for mitigation. She said retaining structures on the road would turn the hillside “into a huge concrete wall” at the west entrance to downtown.

“Please try to find an alternative,” Catherman said to the City Council. “Just because it’s possible to put a road up that hillside doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.”

Councilman Ke­­­nny Reis­man noted that the 13th Street intersection, commonly referred to as a “bottleneck” for traffic entering downtown from the west, was “in many ways at the heart of Steamboat 700,” referring to the debate about a proposed annexation city voters rejected this year.

Reisman said the city would get “one crack” at preparing that intersection for future growth.

“If this is the one crack, this isn’t it,” he said about CMC’s proposal.

Next steps

Jensen said the next discussion of plans for the new facility and road at the Alpine Campus would occur at a CMC board of directors meeting Sept. 20.

The college tentatively had planned to start grading the access road Oct. 1, pending city approval, with construction of the building planned for June 2011. Occupation was anticipated for fall 2012. Jensen gave a quick answer Thursday when asked whether that timetable still was realistic.

“I don’t think so. I think know it’s certainly delayed,” he said. “We have to be very frugal and very careful and responsible with taxpayer money and tuition money that we receive. … We’re clearly moving to some other Plan B type of thing, as far as timetables.”

The City Council did express general support, through five separate votes on issues related to the project, for CMC’s moving forward into the formal planning process. But disagreement arose as to how much the city and CMC should contribute to costs for improvements to the 13th Street intersection.

Jensen said as a result of Tuesday’s discussion, it’s unlikely CMC will move forward in the planning process.

“I don’t have plans right now to resume that work,” Jensen said. “It doesn’t make much sense to keep pouring money into a plan that seems lukewarm.”

Some council members suggested alternate routes, such as via 12th Street, for the secondary access road that’s needed for fire and safety concerns with development of the new building. But City Planner Seth Lorson said staff has “looked at all these alternative accesses” and deemed the 13th Street intersection the most viable.

“It’s not like we haven’t considered everything the city has asked us to consider,” Jensen said. “We’re not going to spend another half-million dollars looking at it again.”

Another issue with access through that intersection is the need for CMC to acquire 1.49 acres there, owned by Harry and Mary Dike. Those negotiations stalled in late July.

Mary Dike said Thursday that the Dikes “haven’t heard a word” from CMC in recent weeks.

Jensen said conversations with the Dike family are “on hold” and also will be discussed Sept. 20.

He emphasized that the discussions with the City Council were not at all antagonistic and stressed that CMC is not considering a departure from Routt County.

“We’re very committed to Routt County and Steamboat Springs and the surrounding area,” Jensen said.

He acknowledged that CMC’s wide-ranging, speculative conversations now could include a split CMC campus in Steamboat Springs or moving the entire campus outside the city to land available elsewhere in Routt County.

Tuesday night, City Council President Cari Hermacinski echoed the council’s widespread appreciation of CMC’s contributions to the city’s economic vitality, job market, educational opportunities and more.

“This probably isn’t the res­ounding ‘yes’ across the board that you were probably looking for,” Hermacinski said to Jensen and other CMC representatives. “The benefit you provide to the community … is recognized by the entire council.”

Jensen said he would like to see recognition of those benefits translate into more collaboration with the city.

“I would like to see the city become a fuller partner in what the future is. … I don’t think that’s unreasonable,” he said. “We’ll proceed forward in a positive manner and see where it leads us.”

Comments

John Fielding 3 years, 10 months ago

.

I wonder how we can seriously consider spending a couple of million to acquire an addition to a lightly used park but not be willing to make modest accommodations and expenditures for something that will benefit many hundreds of people every day and provide a reliable improvement to our economy and quality of life.

.

0

ftpheide 3 years, 10 months ago

The city council's hesitation, to approve this project, was very reasonable. The Alpine Campus is a beautiful location but the hillside offers a lot of limitations. ( access, parking, etc.) I would assume building costs, due to the steepness of the land, would justify using another location. CMC would be foolish to leave Steamboat. The activities that the town offers are the main "draw " for most of students. Many of the students stay in Routt Co. after obtaining their education!

0

John Fielding 3 years, 10 months ago

.

The relocation of the college is out of the question for the foreseeable future, hundreds of millions would have to be invested to bring it to the equivalent of the existing facilities. We could start down that road with a split campus, but that creates difficulties and unnecessary traffic that are worse than making do with the present location. The existing campus location could not be duplicated for ease of access to downtown and the library, as I live just a block away I am very much aware of the substantial numbers of pedestrians, cyclists, and skateboard riders that benefit from that advantage. There are also a number of ways that expansion of the facility can be accommodated in the present location such as taller buildings and more underground areas that would not significantly increase costs and would provide greater economy and utility.

Everything we create for the advancement of our community creates an impact, changes what was once pristine meadows into schools and athletic fields, verdant hillsides into ski and bike trails, a little bend in the river with hot springs and creeks into Old Town with ponds and pools and a vibrant downtown. The work on the access up the hillside could also be done in a way that celebrates the achievements of human society, an inspiring entrance to an institute of higher learning with landscape art and nooks for sculpture featured in the retaining walls and privacy berms. Rather than degrading the west entrance to Old Town, it could elevate it, make it a memorable aspect of our community. The eventual removal of the existing buildings at that intersection will create potential for something that could also enhance the utility and appeal of the existing parks.

Let's step up and claim the collage as our own, not view it as a little branch of a State system. This is Steamboat's college, I am proud my daughter got her first degree there, hope she goes back for a four year program, plan to have my boys start college there and live at home and save tens of thousands on a quality education over the cost of CU or CSU, as do so many in our community. This proposal has been very carefully worked out to comply with the Cities requirements in a way that best balances impacts and advantages. This is not being shoved down our throats, it is offered on a silver platter. We should be stepping forward offering all possible assistance, not being nit picking and demanding.

I for one plan to attend the regents meeting to express support, anyone interested in carpooling to Leadville on the 20th feel free to come along.

.

0

bandmama 3 years, 10 months ago

We really haven't heard alot from local CMC admistration on this topic. Why?

0

jk 3 years, 10 months ago

I am with you on the college aspect of your post John, but sipping from that half full glass has got to have some difficult returns at times!

0

John Fielding 3 years, 10 months ago

.

It is true that maintaining a positive attitude can be difficult, but I find it worth the effort. When it is combined with a willingness to work hard toward the goal we can achieve great things.

.

0

Scott Wedel 3 years, 10 months ago

John, I agree with what you say about the importance of the college.

I do not understand the purpose of going to the regents' meeting in Leadville. What do we want CMC to do differently? To not allow the lack of needed city cooperation to affect the project?

I think if we want this project to happen then we need to convince the City Council to get on board with this project. Maybe they need recall petitions to be circulated in order to focus their attention on the importance of this issue.

It is fundamentally incompetent for City Council members to speculate on other possible alternatives that have already been rejected by city staff. If City Council thinks those are viable despite city staff then City Council needs to immediately deal with city planning staff issues. They already have problems of a finance dept that apparently makes all sorts of decisions that require city council approval without bothering to inform city council for months.

It is fundamental incompetence by City Council members to speculate on the future of the current CMC campus. If that is their concern then become a CMC regent. BTW, a $23 million project that is good enough for the next 20 years makes a lot of sense. Much of the value of the improvements will still exist in 20 years (ie the road access and building shell). So in 20 years CMC could hope to sell the campus to some business and build a new campus elsewhere at what is then the best location. By then Hayden might grow enough that the logical location is over there. I see no potential site within SB to relocate the campus. That is way too expensive of a neighborhood for the campus to acquire neighboring residential properties to grow the existing campus.

It also seems incredible that City Council members could be concerned that the road infringes upon city parks by using land that a couple months ago that no one thought was part of the parks.

Time to recall these idiots before it is too late to correct the real harm they are doing.

0

Scott Wedel 3 years, 10 months ago

I think CMC regents have 4 possible choices: 1) Grind project through SB planning until SB approvals it on terms acceptable to CMC. 2) Put project on hold until SB City Council changes its mind and conceptually accepts current plan developed with city staff. 3) Cancel the project and move the funding to elsewhere in CMC system. 4) See if it makes sense providing these educational services from the Craig campus instead.

If I was a CMC regent and no SB City Council members show up at the meeting to explain how city staff worked with CMC for months only for the resulting plan to not be approved by City Council then I'd vote to cancel the project in SB. SB City Council needs to go the Leadville meeting and basically apologize and explain how just a few minor adjustments are needed to get City approvals.

BTW, only a fool would hope that CMC thinks that they need SB. They have campuses in Craig and Rangely. CMC is not about to be seen as using tourist towns to inflate their attendance by attracting students more interested in skiing than learning. Going down that road will destroy public support across the state for CMC because the state does not fund CMC to boost resort towns. The purpose of CMC is to provide educational opportunities to western slope residents. Thus, it is politically better for CMC to leave the SB campus alone and expand Craig campus instead.

0

ftpheide 3 years, 10 months ago

Scott, See how far you get with the recall petition. People will avoid you and think your insane. Lighten up! Everything will work out without your anger and intensity.

0

Scott Wedel 3 years, 10 months ago

So CMC's Jensen says he does not intend to proceed through city planning and CMC has not purchased the property to get access and their initial schedule had road grading starting in October and you are that confident the everything will work out.

Looks more like this is not happening for a year or two at best.

0

John Fielding 3 years, 10 months ago

.

What I hope to accomplish by speaking at the Regents meeting is to demonstrate that there is support in the community, that at least one nearby homeowner who will endure many impacts from the growth of the college is willing to accept that increased traffic, noise, and other less than favorable effects are not an unacceptable burden in light of the tremendous community benefit of the expansion of the college. I hope to convey that the mix of critical responses from council are to be expected in light of their elected status and the current pressures they are under to demonstrate increased responsibility.

I hope to encourage them to proceed into planing, that through that process the concerns expressed by council and citizens may be addressed, that the bottom line of councils position is that the project should proceed even if they are not sure it is perfect. I hope to express that as the existing plans and the conditions that shaped them receive further exposure and understanding through the planing process some objections will be withdrawn, others may be satisfied by minor aesthetic modifications, and in the end council members may very well vote to support the project despite some aspect that is not as they could wish it to be in light of the substantial community benefit.

I also an inclined to mention the recent history of this councils decision being overturned by popular vote, and offer my opinion that if this project does not receive councils final approval that some similar form of citizen reaction may take place to clear the way for it to proceed again.

I will also add that while we who live so close generally consider the college to be a good neighbor, we also may wish to make suggestions of ways that relationship can be improved with less light pollution, better pedestrian and bike ways, and regular community involvement events. Suggesting that improvements are possible is not necessarily being unsupportive, either for neighbors or elected officials

Mostly I hope to encourage them to consider this hiccup as not significant enough to allow these carefully considered plans to be halted. And if any council member would take Scot's advice despite his unpleasant tone, and attend to offer encouragement along with myself and any other concerned citizens, I think the reaction of the Board would be even more favorable. .

0

John Fielding 3 years, 10 months ago

.

Here is a link to the Board of Trustees meeting agenda. The Steamboat Campus project is the final item, on for 2:45, with adornment scheduled for 3:00.

http://www.coloradomtn.edu/UserFiles/Servers/Server_2935393/File/bot/agendas/agenda200910.pdf

The general public comment time is a little after 10:00. I have not determined yet if public comments regarding a specific item are taken during that discussion as with our City Council, or if they must be in the public comment time slot.

Dr. Shalee Cunningham, our School Superintendent, is the Routt County Trustee. It may be that the best venue for expressing support for the College is via her.

.

0

housepoor 3 years, 10 months ago

Can't figure this one out, it seems like a no brainer especially in this economic enviroment, they should begging. Maybe if the Board of Realtors endorsed it CC would get on board.

0

ybul 3 years, 10 months ago

Maybe the connector road should come in from the road to the NW that had already started to be graded towards the campus. This eliminates the bottleneck at 13th for emergencies.

Seems like a no brainer to me that the proposed road is at the wrong spot.

0

ftpheide 3 years, 10 months ago

ybul, Your a reasonable person. The City Council agrees with you. The proposed road could be in the wrong spot! Let the council work this out. Let them do the negotiations.

0

John Fielding 3 years, 10 months ago

I received a call from Dr. Cunningham this morning in response to a request to speak with her regarding this matter. She has expressed willingness to deliver all messages from concerned citizens to the trustees meeting, and has provided this address for contacting her and submitting comments.

"Shalee Cunningham" scunningham@sssd.k12.co.us

She also informed me that public comments will be received by the Board at both the general forum just after 10 am as well as during the specific discussion at 2:45.

I urge anyone who considers this issue to be important to our community to submit their viewpoints.

.

0

Scott Wedel 3 years, 10 months ago

John, Yeah, that is a good approach to basically argue that SB has a long history of inept city councils so the people have the experience in making sure the right decision is made in the end.

So they should proceed and submit it to planning while also making it clear that they have already spent all that intend to spend on design plans and such.

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.