Battle over controversial Steamboat Springs apartment project heads back to courts
February 9, 2017
Steamboat Springs — A battle over the future of the west end of downtown Steamboat Springs continued in Citizens Hall on Tuesday night as City Council members faced more opposition over their decision to approve a controversial apartment project.
The council found itself having to revisit its approval of the 40-unit apartment project because a judge found that the council failed to lay out the facts and findings that supported the approval.
Opponents of the project saw Tuesday's discussion as another opportunity to ask the council to reconsider.
"It's not often we get to correct the big mistakes we make in our lives, and the judge has given you that opportunity tonight," former Steamboat city planner John Lanterman told the council on Tuesday. "I and many others are in strong opposition to this. It's very much out of scale with downtown, and if allowed to move forward, this project will forever change the character of downtown Steamboat."
Showing the council what was at stake, Lanterman pointed to the city’s desktop background of downtown Steamboat, and the town’s historic brick buildings beamed on the large projector in Citizens Hall.
The discussion about the 1125 Lincoln Avenue project took more than two hours and grew tedious at times.
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In the end, the council barely approved a resolution laying out the facts and findings it thinks support its decision to endorse the project, which required several variances to city code because of its height and density.
Council members Walter Magill, Tony Connell and Robin Crossan supported the resolution, while Heather Sloop and Kathi Meyer opposed it. Scott Ford and Jason Lacy recused themselves from the discussion, and they also did not vote on the initial approval of the project.
The council was sued over its 4-1 vote approving the project, and a judge agreed with the plaintiff of the lawsuit that the council failed to follow proper procedures when it neglected to lay out facts and findings supporting the decision.
The council approved the resolution to try and fulfill the judge's request.
Judge Shelley Hill has not yet made a ruling on the plaintiff's complaint in the lawsuit that the council did not have a sufficient basis for approving the variances the apartments needed.
Local attorney Rich Tremaine filed the lawsuit against the city and the council on behalf of Old Town resident Ken Manley.
Manley thinks the apartment project, which would be taller and denser than anything on the north end of downtown, would ding the city's western character and stick out like a sore thumb.
Councilwoman Kathi Meyer, the lone “no” vote, agreed with community members who felt the building was too tall and dense for the area.
Council members who supported the project and the variances said the need for the residential and mixed-use building outweighed concerns about its size and appearance.
The fate of the apartment project now goes back to the courts.
"Thanks folks. The next step is back to the courts so we'll all hear the outcome together," Council President Walter Magill said. "Thanks for sticking with us and for your input tonight."