Our View: Seek a 6-year vesting period
January 31, 2010
We would love to see Ski Time Square redeveloped. A bustling base area is crucial to ensure that visitors enjoy their time here and want to return year after year. It's also important to locals, who want commercial options and a variety of places to enjoy après ski entertainment. That sales tax revenue would be pretty nice for the city of Steamboat Springs, too.
But development must happen in a reasonable way with time enough to make it economically feasible, but not so much time that what's eventually built no longer fits the needs of the community.
The Atira Group is redeveloping Ski Time Square and Thunderhead Lodge on behalf of Cafritz Interests, which bought the properties in 2007. The company is requesting a 10-year vesting period, meaning it would have 10 years after the development plan is approved to submit a final development plan. More years would pass before builders broke ground.
That's too long.
By the time developers are ready to build, the plan could be incongruous with other buildings and businesses at the base of Mount Werner. Additionally, the aesthetics of the community, the requirements of the building codes and the planning codes all could have changed by 2020.
The local experts on city planning staff and the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission have recommended a grace period of six years, which seems more reasonable. A six-year vesting period allows the city to re-examine after that point. The economic climate and needs of Steamboat could be far different by 2016 — just look at how much Steamboat Springs has changed since 2004.
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We understand that market conditions will dictate what happens. Most of Ski Time Square was demolished in 2008 and, like it or not, the community will be stuck with a vacant parcel until it's economically feasible for the developer to begin construction. And we know Atira and its partners want to build. There are carrying costs associated with the land and project, so it's not ideal for the developer to wait longer than necessary.
The Steamboat Springs City Council is scheduled to review the proposed development Tuesday night. Atira is scheduled to present a development plan that includes five buildings with about 200 total condominiums and more than 27,000 square feet of commercial space on a 4.6-acre site on Ski Time Square Drive. Atira also plans more than $2 million in public amenities.
The City Council will address architectural specifics in a future final development plan if the council approves the conceptual development plan Tuesday.
We urge the council to follow the recommendations of staff and the Planning Commission for a six-year vesting plan. We'd also like to see a clear path to extending the vesting, if warranted. Our choice to extend that vesting beyond six years could — and perhaps should — be influenced by whether Atira follows up on its plans to keep the area somewhat vital in the interim.
Atira has made a good-faith effort to pursue ways to keep Ski Time Square active while it plans development. We want to see commitment and follow-through to requests for temporary uses of the space, and let's not forget that we need to work toward year-round vibrancy.
The public sector is invested in stimulating the base area. We want private development to happen there. If we keep that public-private partnership strong and set reasonable development terms, Steamboat can help make Ski Time Square a pleasant place to be — now and 20 years from now.