New police station gets green light from Steamboat planning commission, despite concerns it looks too much like a bunker | SteamboatToday.com

New police station gets green light from Steamboat planning commission, despite concerns it looks too much like a bunker

The current zoning at the west Steamboat property would not allow a structure with so few windows and flat roofs to be constructed along U.S. Highway 40.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A new law enforcement campus in west Steamboat Springs got the green light Thursday from the city's planning commission, despite some concerns in the room that the building's architectural design could be more appealing and imaginative.

"This building is in a prime location (on U.S. Highway 40), and it doesn't need to look like a bunker," Steamboat resident Bill Jameson told commissioners as he urged them not to advance the project, because of what he considered to be design shortcomings.

Jameson said that, while he supported the construction of a shared law enforcement facility for local police and sheriff's deputies, he thought the design could be improved.

He urged the commission to seek such things as additional windows on the building before allowing it to continue.

Most of the planning commissioners did not share the concerns about the architecture.

Instead, they sided with city officials and the building architects, who said the structure needed to sacrifice some windows and architectural elements so it could be made more secure.

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"We were trying to protect what was inside these buildings," Steamboat Architectural Associates Project Manager Erica Hewitt said.

Commissioners approved a request to rezone the facility so it did not have to adhere to more demanding architectural guidelines for highway-facing structures in a city entrance corridor.

They also approved the plans for the structure.

Still, some commissioners acknowledged that the city has forced private commercial developers to change their designs when their buildings were constructed in a city entrance corridor on the highway.

For example, Walgreens had to add some fake windows on its highway-facing side to earn approval.

Why did the city's police station not have to do the same?

"It's a facility; it's a police facility. It's not a Walgreens; it needs to be its own entity …,” commissioner Michael Buccino said.

He said the design also steered the public toward a more architecturally interesting front façade that marks the public entrance.

Commissioner Rich Levy was the lone “no” vote on the development plan for the facility.

"It's not very pretty, and better work could probably be done," he said, referring to the part of the building that faces the highway.

The Steamboat Springs City Council, which will ultimately decide whether the plans are good to go, will weigh in Tuesday.

The planned public safety campus will include a new 25,908-square-foot facility that will house the Routt County Sheriff’s Office, the city’s police force and the county’s emergency communications center. The project also calls for a new 4,100-square-foot garage, a 21-space parking lot and a 5,188-square-foot remodel of the existing sheriff’s office.

The facility and associated remodels are estimated to cost about $16.46 million.

According to the latest cost breakdown available, the city's bill for the shared facility comes to an estimated $11.2 million, while the county's share comes in at $5.3 million.

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