Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs City Council approved the final development plan Tuesday night for a project that a neighboring property owner said ignores a protected wetland area near 13th Street and isn’t subject to the same rules others who built there complied with.
Precision Sharpening & Repair Service owner Jim Pavlik urged City Council members to deny Clear Water Studios in the Betterview Business Park. Ben Spiegel is developing the project that could include six 2,500-square-foot, two-floor units in three buildings.
Pavlik said the development would be constructed on wetlands identified for protection when the area was annexed into the city in 2005. He said he wasn’t allowed to build in that area and expressed concern that the development would result in groundwater issues on his property as indicated in environmental studies of the area.
“I’m in opposition to somebody who has totally ignored all the regulations,” Pavlik told the City Council. “And so far, he has been rewarded with approval up to this point. I recommend disapproval of this project. If it is approved, I consider it a slap in my face for doing the right things, for doing what I’m told.”
City Council members approved the final development plan by a 5-1 vote. Council member Bart Kounovsky recused himself from the vote. Kounovsky, the chief operating officer of Colorado Group Realty, said one of his agents had the listing on the property.
Council member Meg Bentley provided the opposition. She said because the criteria for evaluating businesses at that location have changed, harm was caused to existing property owners and to Spiegel.
“I actually do like his development and think that this is a development the city needs,” she said. “But Clear Water Studios has been evaluated with a different yardstick than what was used to evaluate neighboring developments.”
Steamboat Springs Planning Director Tyler Gibbs said Spiegel’s project was denied last year because it proposed to develop portions of the property that were protected from development because of the wetlands, according to an agreement between the Betterview Business Park and the city before the property was annexed.
The agreement included a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit that prohibited development on out-lots of the subdivision’s six lots, portions of the properties that were identified as wetlands.
However, Gibbs said he was asked to review Spiegel’s application after he joined the city about 13 months ago to determine whether it could be resubmitted. Based on his review of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan, the Community Development Code and a more comprehensive Army Corps of Engineers permit obtained by Spiegel that would allow development in the protected areas with appropriate mitigation, Gibbs allowed Spiegel to resubmit the application.
Gibbs said the Area Community Plan recommends the creation of a wetland protection program, but the city’s Development Code doesn’t have rules that give local authority over the program to Steamboat.
“I felt that we didn’t have a choice but to rely on an agency that does have guidelines and does have a process,” Gibbs said about the Army Corps of Engineers. “That’s not to say I wouldn’t support the city developing our own criteria if that’s what we choose to do. We certainly have the option for local control.”
Pavlik contends that the agreement between Betterview and the city prohibits any development on the out-lots. He said his plan to build a 5,200-square-foot building was denied because construction extended on his out-lot, and he was forced to scale it back nearly 1,000 square feet. He said it’s now too small.
Pavlik added that the city has denied every property owner who has applied to develop on out-lots.
The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission denied Spiegel’s preliminary plan Aug. 25, a decision the City Council overturned Sept. 6. The Planning Commission approved the final development plan Sept. 22.
Council member Jon Quinn expressed reservations about the project. He said Pavlik got the “short end of the stick” because his project wasn’t given the same consideration as Spiegel’s.
“I wish I could undo that wrong, and unfortunately, I can’t,” Quinn said. “I think the best thing we can do tonight is to move forward with this development — because I do think this is a good development — and approve it. I wish there were another way.”
Reached Wednesday, Spiegel said he had no timeline for development. He said approval would allow him to solicit investors or partners for two of the buildings. Spiegel said he eventually plans to move his custom paint and finish business, Spiegel & Son, to one of the buildings.
— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com