Our View: Ptarmigan proposal offers promise
October 25, 2011
The proposed redevelopment of the Ptarmigan Inn represents the first major, and formal, development project at the base of Steamboat Ski Area in several years. It's encouraging to see developer interest returning to the ski base, but the project also should serve as a reminder of what can go wrong when the proper precautions aren't taken.
The current owners of the Ptarmigan Inn, which operates as a slopeside Best Western hotel, want to tear down their existing building and replace it with a 71-unit condominium complex that reaches 105 feet at its tallest point — the highest allowed by city code. The project would have fewer parking spaces than total condo units.
Both the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission and City Council approved the conceptual development plan despite obvious objections from neighboring property owners who complain about the project's size and potential impacts to their property, among other concerns.
The approval of a conceptual development plan is simply a new initial step in the formal review process of development proposals in the city. The Ptarmigan Inn project still must go through the final development plan process.
While we like a lot of what the developer's plans entail — after all, isn't new, high-density development exactly what's needed at the base area? — there are bigger-picture issues that shouldn't be ignored, including assurances that the existing Ptarmigan Inn hotel won't get demolished and sit as an empty lot for years, and that the project's vesting period be appropriately brief to motivate construction. Other considerations include the proximity of the new base area promenade and how future public and private improvements might extend the new base area pedestrian walkway to projects like the Ptarmigan.
One of the goals of public infrastructure improvements like the promenade project was that they would stimulate private development. This new proposed project certainly isn't a direct result of the promenade work, but we hope it's emblematic of future development that, when done correctly, will modernize and improve the ski area base.