360, Bridges face uphill fight
2 annexation proposals earn mixed reviews from planners
November 22, 2008
City planning commissioners had plenty of compliments this week for two Wilton Development projects proposed for annexation into Steamboat Springs. But the projects also face challenges that may lead to uphill battles.
Through two separate limited liability companies but with the same local partners, Richmond, Va.-based Wilton is behind both proposed developments, which had their pre-applications for annexation reviewed by the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission on Thursday.
The Bridges at Steamboat would be jointly developed with the Yampa Valley Medical Center, combining a mixed-use development along the Yampa River just south of Steamboat with a YVMC “senior living campus.” The campus would replace the Doak Walker Care Center at the hospital and also provide more independent senior living opportunities than the nursing home. The entire proposed project is about 40 acres.
“I believe this is a demographic underserved in our community,” local Wilton partner Tony Connell said of the elderly. “(The Bridges) will give our seniors an opportunity to stay and live in our community.”
City planners and commissioners went out of their way to express their support for YVMC and the elderly but also raised concerns primarily related to site constraints that include the river itself, associated wetlands, and its proximity to a bald eagle nest and infiltration galleries owned by the city and Mount Werner Water.
Bob Mussetter, a hydrology consultant for the developers, said the project would take a “responsible approach that, if done correctly, should have a very minimal if not positive impact on the river corridor” because the development plan includes river improvements.
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Commissioner Rich Levy was skeptical, however, and said impacts would be hard, if not impossible, to mitigate.
“In theory, I love your idea,” he said. “But I really have a hard time with the encroachment on the wetlands.”
The city’s planning staff is opposed to The Bridges’ proposal to include some development on the west side of the Yampa River, a natural barrier that development has yet to pass on the city’s south side. Commissioners were divided regarding the issue.
The other project, 360 Village, also was praised for its density, mix of uses and an affordable housing plan that goes beyond city requirements. The project is 110 acres.
“We believe the vision for 360 Village fits very well with the vision of the city for west Steamboat,” Chris Erickson, of TST Creative Services Group, said about the project that envisions 550 to 650 homes, 33 percent of which would be designated affordable or attainable.
But the project’s location may be its highest hurdle; it is 1.3 miles west of city limits – 2 miles via automobile – on an already clogged U.S. Highway 40.
“It’s crazy what you have to do just to get on the road,” Claudia Smith, who lives in the Steamboat II subdivision adjacent to the 360 Village parcel, said about U.S. 40 during public comment. “It’s a great idea, but it’s not in the right place.”
City planner Jason Peasley said the city should not approve any development in west Steamboat until U.S. 40 capacity improvements are completed, the financing of which looks increasingly daunting with each passing day.
“It’s irresponsible for the city to allow development in a corridor that can’t handle the demand,” Peasley said.
Not all commissioners agreed with Peasley, however. Commissioner Karen Dixon said Steamboat’s housing supply needs should not be trumped by traffic concerns.
The projects’ distance from the core of the city also raised concerns for some planning commissioners.
“My biggest concern in our community is sprawl,” Commissioner Cedar Beauregard said in reference to 360 Village. “I don’t think it would be a pleasant experience for me to witness that.”
Levy agreed with Beauregard but also noted the scarcity and expense of land closer to and within city limits.
“Ideally, I would love to see this closer to town,” Levy said about The Bridges. “I understand, though, reality versus practicality.”
The pre-application review stage is intended to give developers feedback on conceptual proposals before extensive money and resources are spent on detailed development plans. No official action was taken at Thursday’s meeting. The Steamboat Springs City Council is scheduled to review both pre-applications Dec. 16.
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