City approves Westland demolition permit
The demolition of Westland Mobile Home Park has become a near certainty.
The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday approved the issuance of a permit that would allow Jim Cook, who is representing the Riverwalk development project, and any of his partners to change the use of the Westland Mobile Home Park. Allowable changes include demolition of the park.
The Riverwalk development, which would be along Yampa Street between Third and Fifth streets, would have 72 residential units, seven deed-restricted affordable units, 35 hotel rooms, more than 32,000 square feet of commercial space and 108 underground parking garage spaces. To make room for the project, the Westland park would have to be torn down. About 150 people live in the park’s 39 homes.
Because of the city’s mobile-home ordinance, Cook needed a conditional-use permit to move forward with the project. According to a city memo, “The sole requirement for meeting the conditional-use criteria is the submittal of a full and complete Conversion Impact Report.”
Cook provided a report; two Westland residents said it was not complete.
Christina Allevato, whose hands and voice were shaking, said a couple of sections of the report were not filled out.
“It seems to me that this impact report isn’t finished,” she said.
Peter Lewis pointed out that the list of residents’ names was incomplete and that the information about other mobile-home parks in the area was outdated.
Cook said information about who rents the homes changes constantly.
“You just can’t get some of this information period, plain and simple,” Cook said.
Jill Brabec, Cook’s attorney, said the staff member who worked to get the information for the report was not welcomed by residents.
“We’re not going to get that cooperation,” Brabec said.
Cook, banging his fist on the podium with every syllable he said, reiterated that he had worked with the assistant city attorney again and again to talk about the report. They determined that it was as complete as it could be, he said.
Cook also said, per Allevato’s request, that he was willing to stabilize mobile-home rents in the park until the residents leave.
“I challenge you to lower it,” council member Kevin Kaminski said.
Cook replied, “Kevin, they’re low enough.”
Council member Steve Ivancie moved to table the council’s decision about the change of use to give the applicant more time to collect information for the report.
Several members, including Towny Anderson, said they would not support the motion.
“All we’re doing is delaying the inevitable,” Anderson said. Ivancie and Susan Dellinger voted in support of the motion.
With little further deliberation, the council voted unanimously to approve the change of use.
Anderson said he knew the decision was painful for a lot of people, and Kaminski said the council needed to look at making the mobile-home ordinance more specific.
Before the change-of-use review, the council also voted unanimously to approve the Riverwalk development plan, which addresses issues such as mass and height.
Because the developer requested 10 variances with the project, it had to go through a special review process in which the public benefit must outweigh the disadvantages of the variances.
“We clearly believe that the public benefit is here in this project,” Cook said. “This is a project that works for what it is.”
Westland resident Stuart Lynn did not agree. He said the project would ruin views of Howelsen Hill.
“Height variances matter,” Lynn said.
Resident Ray Uhl also was opposed to the project.
“Everyone in town in benefiting from this project. The only people that are losing here is us,” Uhl said.
Bobbi Hodge, a resident of the Dream Island Mobile Home Community, said that she felt sorry for the Westland residents but that she saw benefit in the project.
“I believe the greatest benefit has been reached. … I think this is going to be in the best interest of Steamboat Springs,” she said.
Kent Vertrees liked the project because it would add access to the Yampa River and would benefit the riparian habitat.
“I think it’s an improvement to the river,” he said.
Council members approved the development plan on several conditions.
One condition was that residents of Westland also would be given first chance to live in the affordable units of the project.
Another condition was that Cook would give more time to residents — who will receive six months notice as early as today — if the project is delayed. Also, they cannot be evicted between Oct. 15 and March 15, so they cannot lose their homes in winter.
Cook agreed to the conditions.
“I’m not going to be having these people go out in the middle of the winter,” he said.
The council also discussed the $1.5 million that Cook plans to give the city in exchange for the city vacating a right of way. The council will discuss how to use this money at a later meeting.
The Riverwalk project is not a certainty. The final development plan, which addresses architecture, still has to go through the city’s approval process.
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