Planning Commissioners favor adaptive recreation headquarters within urban growth boundary | SteamboatToday.com

Planning Commissioners favor adaptive recreation headquarters within urban growth boundary

The Routt County Planning Commission voted May 5 to approve STARS' plans to build a bigger lodge for visting clients who come to Steamboat to take part in adaptive recreation.

— The Routt County Planning Commission voted favorably May 5 on Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports', or STARS, application to amend an existing development permit. The amended permit allows STARS to increase the size of a planned lodge and new home for its adaptive riding program, as well as add offices, on 5.95 acres off U.S. Highway 40 just south of the city limits of Steamboat Springs.

Commissioner Troy Brookshire cast the lone dissenting vote at the end of a three-hour public hearing Thursday night.

The amendment, which allows a bigger lodge on a reduced site, comes 15 months after the original approval in late January 2015. The vote of approval allows STARS to increase the size of a planned 40-foot-tall lodge from 7,500 square feet to 15,300 square feet to accommodate staff offices (previously set to be housed in an dilapidated 1950s farmhouse) and reconfigure lodging units and bathrooms to provide visiting STARS clients more privacy.

STARS offers recreational programs to clients with cognitive and physical disabilities, and the not-for-profit has searched the immediate Steamboat Springs area for a practical site where it can create a headquarters for its operations, house its adaptive horseback riding program and offer out-of-town clients a peaceful, ranch-like setting.

STARS Executive Director Julie Taulman urged the planning commissioners to contemplate what else might be built on the site — just north of the city of Steamboat's Legacy Ranch — if her organization were to be turned down.

“If this doesn't pass, and it's resold, you could have an apartment building, or a 17,000-square-foot home," there. "We're trying to have a peaceful ranch space where (STARS clients) can heal and go on to become productive citizens," Taulman said.

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County Planning Director Chad Phillips reminded commissioners that the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, passed by both city and county governments, specifically calls for low-density residential development on the STARS parcel.

However, Commission Brian Arel, who made the motion of approval, was persuasive.

"This is kind of predetermined (because of its location within the urban growth boundary)," he said. "Think of what could come. The city could annex it for a money-making, tax-producing large hotel. I think this is a really good option for low-density (development with) a good-looking ranch feel at the gateway to the community.

Commissioners Bill Norris, Jim McGee and Karl Koehler were among those who shared Arel's viewpoint.

(This story will be updated)

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1