City gives developer until July 5 to ‘review’ plan for Longview Highlands development
Neighbors aim to thwart project as currently proposed
On Tuesday, April 5, the Steamboat Springs City Council agreed to table two variance requests for the proposed Longview Highlands — a planned development of 118 units in 13 buildings on 9.4 acres at the northeast corner of U.S. Highway 40 and High Point Drive.
With opinions divided on whether to approve the variances, council members agreed to give the developer until July 5 to “review and reconsider” some of the concerns expressed by council and the public.
While the variances are specific and technical — related to glazing and base-plate height — the need for approval opened the door for an array of concerns related to the project. Approximately 30 people — largely neighbors of the proposed development — attended the meeting to urge the council not to approve the variances.
It was nearly 10 p.m. when the discussion around Longview Highlands drew to a close.
“First of all, I want to make it really clear that the Longview Park owners are not against any development at this location,” said Karen Wogsland during public comments. “It just needs to be done responsibly and in a more balanced way.”
Presenting on behalf of the developer, Walter Magill of Four Points Surveying and Engineering stressed the benefit of the rebuilding of High Point Drive and bringing it up to city standards.
“This road needs to be rebuilt,” he said. “We all agree with that.”
High Point Drive will be rebuilt prior to breaking ground on the housing development, he said. The application also includes a proposal to extend High Point Drive to Longview Circle.
The developer contends the extension will provide additional connectivity in the neighborhood and help alleviate car trips through Parkview Drive and Parkview Place. The project would also include the installation of a sidewalk and street trees along the street.
Currently a privately maintained road, High Point Drive would become a public street. Rebuilding the road and plans for extensive landscaping are part of the developer’s effort to mitigate any negative effects to the neighborhood.
However, many residents expressed concerns about increased traffic and skepticism about a commissioned traffic study.
“If the entrance-exit roads from Longview Village continue to line up directly with the two legs of Parkview Drive … the cut through Longview Park on Parkview Drive would still be the shorter route to get to Longview Circle-Hilltop Parkway where a traffic light can be accessed,” wrote neighbor Anita Harcourt in a public comment submitted via email.
“Therefore, the welcome extension and improvements to Highpoint Drive alone, will not adequately mitigate the influx of major new traffic through the driveway-rich, narrow, curvy neighborhood streets of Parkview Drive and Parkview Place, which were never intended to function as a through-way for additional hundreds of car trips per day.”
Regarding concerns about safety at the intersection of U.S. 40 and High Point Drive, Bob Keenan, the city’s principal planner, said adding a traffic signal at that location didn’t meet the Colorado Department of Transportation’s requirements.
The base-plate height variance also includes a request for a partial waiver of the “skyline overlay” — a restriction created more than 20 years ago to ensure any development that protrudes into the skyline from significant viewpoints meets certain standards to minimize the visual impact.
Keenan said the development meets current standards for overall height, but does not meet for the average base-plate (wall) height on two buildings.
“In my opinion, I don’t think the the average plate height variance impacts the skyline very significantly,” he said.
The need for increased height, Magill said, relates to the steep slope where those two buildings would be located, and the measurement from the existing ground level.
Keenan noted the existing Longview townhouses also received a skyline overlay waiver.
The Legacy Vacation Resort has often been brought up in terms of what is already protruding into the skyline.
Neighbor Marla Stefanelli argued in her letter to council, “The Legacy Inn would not be allowed under the existing code and it is not part of the existing neighborhood. To add more buildings does not make it okay … If the builder can’t meet the code, then change the plans.”
Many neighbors also expressed concern about the project’s density and the increase of units in the original plan from 88 to 118. Resident David Kinnear suggested the traffic impacts would be much worse than the developer is suggesting.
“I’m not saying the parcel of land should not be developed. I am saying this project is too large for this neighborhood. You can shrink the size of the project by enforcing code as written and not granting variances.”
Another debate raged about whether the development would bring more affordable housing to Steamboat.
Magill said all units would be offered at market-rate. He argued while Yampa Valley Housing Authority is increasing affordable units, there is also a need for more market-rate units.
“I think we can all agree this is not workforce housing and it is not affordable,” said Dina Fisher, another neighbor.
“I believe this meets the community goal by putting out more units,” Magill said. “It is affordable to certain people.”
Councilman Michael Buccino noted an issue for some workers who make too much to qualify for subsidized housing.
“We need this diversity of housing in our community,” he said.
Buccino said he’d spoken with constituents who would support the project after some issues were addressed.
“If we can solve these few variances then we can get behind it,” he said.
“It’s time we put our faith and enforcement mechanism into the Community Development Code — that’s what it is there for,” Council member Joella West said. “That’s how we both try to preserve the community and move forward … if a developer wants to have variances, I want to know what special benefit that brings to the community.”
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