Two nonprofits increase Old Town presence | SteamboatToday.com

Two nonprofits increase Old Town presence

Autism Program, Whiteman Primary look to grow in heart of Steamboat





The front portion of this home on Pine Street would be incorporated into the façade of a new multi-purpose building for Lowell Whiteman Primary School. The rear of the existing school building is visible across the alley in the background.
Tom Ross

— Two local nonprofit organizations are seeking city development permits that would allow them to increase their presence in Old Town Steam­boat Springs.

The Yampa Valley Autism Program has an agreement to lease half of a duplex home at 512 Eighth St., where it would work with clients who are autistic and their families.

Several blocks away on Pine Street, Lowell Whiteman Primary School is seeking a development permit to build a large multipurpose building that would include a gymnasium, music suite and two classrooms. The site is across the alley from the school's existing building at 818 Oak St.

Community service facilities such as those being proposed by the primary school and the autism group are allowed as conditional uses in the residential Old Town zoning district, senior city planner Bob Keenan said.

Whiteman Primary hopes to develop a music practice facility and an up-to-date science lab as a result of its building project. For the Autism Program, it's about providing a supportive environment to its clients.

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"We need to provide a calm family setting so our clients feel relaxed and secure," Autism Program board member Steve Ivancie said.

Advantages to the Eighth Street site, he said, include a large front yard and the fact that it's just two doors down from the three-way intersection with Pawintah and Crawford streets, at Soda Creek Elementary School.

Lu Etta Loeber, executive director of the Autism Program, said the group is a 501(c)3 corporation and has a mission of helping people affected by an autism spectrum disorder reach their full potential and maximize their quality of life.

She wrote in a memo to planning staff that hours at the facility would be from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The 1,568-square-foot space would be used 12 months a year for client assessments, program planning and implementation.

One of the most important services offered, she said, is the social thinking/cognition program.

"We are the only agency providing this program, and it addresses the social and communication needs our clients all exhibit," Loeber wrote. "We anticipate groups of six to eight at any given time. Parking is not an issue as clients are dropped off and picked up. We also hope to hold small parent support groups here on a monthly basis."

Older clients will be invited to take part in a simulated work project based around a gardening program at Yampa River Botanic Park.

Planning for the garden would take place at the new center on Eighth Street.

Ivancie said he and his fellow board members also hope to raise community awareness of the needs of people with autism.

"People do not realize how prevalent it is, especially among males," Ivancie said. "We're working with BOCES in surrounding counties and making great progress."

The Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of the Autism Program's plans Thursday. The proposal will be on the Steamboat Springs City Council's March 2 agenda for final approval.

Whiteman seeks gym

The Whiteman Primary School was formed about 20 years ago by a group of local families. The school built a new facility on Oak Street almost nine years ago in a joint venture and land-use sharing arrangement with St. Paul's Episcopal Church and Tread of Pioneers Museum.

Head of School Nancy Spil­lane told city officials in a Jan. 19 memo that for the past three years, school officials have explored the possibility of moving the entire campus out of the city.

"We had a couple of proposals on the table to do just that," she wrote. "However, we have chosen to make the best use of our current building and complete our facilities by using properties adjoining the 818 Oak St. building."

The expansion to the existing campus would be across the alley at the rear of the school. Whiteman Primary owns two city lots at 819 and 825 Pine St. that are occupied by five small buildings, including several residences.

The proposals went through a preliminary review by city planning in spring 2009. One of the results of that process was the incorporation of the most substantial of the five buildings — a brick home — into the Pine Street façade of the new multipurpose building. The intent is to help the new building fit into the character of the surrounding neighborhood, Keenan said.

Spillane wrote that the existing reading room at the school is too small to host upper primary English classes, and the science room lacks an appropriate middle school laboratory.

"Spanish is virtually a classroom on wheels, as the larger number of students does not allow for any permanently designated space," Spillane said.

The chance to provide a permanent gymnasium controlled by the school is one of the biggest motivations for the new building.

Spillane said the school rents space from the Steamboat Springs School District and students walk two blocks to physical education classes. However, Whiteman can't be certain from one year to the next if it the district's space will be available to them, Spillane said.

Notifications of Whiteman's plans have been sent to more than 30 neighboring property owners. No public hearings on the project have been scheduled.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com