Davises and Williamsons: Best laid plans
The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray, wrote Robert Burns. He could have been referring to Steamboat Springs’ Mountain Plan and the development known as the Viceroy.
The Viceroy is an immense building that will literally block out the sun on Burgess Creek Road.
In 2005, recognizing that the mountain base was dying, the Steamboat Springs City Council had the courage to put a moratorium on development while the community created a plan. A multi-talented team of architects, developers, landowners and community members took six months to create the plan.
Today, if you have enjoyed walking the promenade along the resurfaced Burgess Creek, you have benefited from the vision and the plan they created. There is still much work needed to develop the pedestrian-oriented, shopping/entertainment area the plan envisioned.
Unfortunately, last week the City Council, lacking the vision of the 2005 council, approved the Viceroy and essentially put an end to the Mountain Plan. The Viceroy establishes many precedents that denigrate or ignore the Mountain Plan and will ultimately rob the base area of its vitality.
Our Mountain Plan calls for pedestrian-friendly development. A sidewalk will be built around the Viceroy, but it does not connect to any other existing sidewalks. The developer was not required to obtain an easement to connect to sidewalks at the base. The city has no plans to build sidewalks on Burgess Creek Road. A sidewalk to nowhere is not pedestrian-friendly and was not the vision of the Mountain Plan.
The plan calls for dense development near the base and warns against the building of private condominiums, because they are frequently empty. The Viceroy will provide lodging for 14 owners and their families in a building as tall as the Sheraton. One Viceroy Unit is more than 4,700 square feet.
The Viceroy is designed to provide a few rich individuals lodging near the base. Preventing giant condominiums that rob the vitality of the base was one of the reasons for the creation of the Mountain Plan.
The plan asks for ground floor retail and commercial units. The Viceroy has no commercial units. The developer was not required to meet this requirement, because shoppers would need to climb too many steps.
If we allow developers to avoid creating vibrant shops and restaurants at the base simply because patrons may have to climb some steps, we will never revitalize the base area.
The Mountain Plan asks for affordable lodging for the people who work at the base. The Viceroy delivers condos that will cost more than $500,000 to own. No lift operator, ski instructor or waitress will live at the Viceroy.
The Viceroy is an example of how zoning codes can be manipulated when no one is paying attention. In 2009, the marginal land it will be built on was up-zoned, allowing for the highest building heights in Steamboat’s codebook. (Developers know most of us pay little attention to the machinations of zoning.) This created a gold mine for the owners out of a piece of land that was almost worthless and wasn’t officially platted until last week.
Our families arrived in Steamboat in the 1970s. Members have worked as ski instructors, coaches for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and were active in creating the Bike Town U.S.A. movement. We are not opposed to wise development.
By negating the Mountain Plan, the Viceroy, planning staff, commission and City Council have sown the dragon’s teeth. We will see 100-foot giant condos encircling the base and the vision for our mountain will disappear in their shadows.
Paul and Bonnie Davis
Randy and Kathleen Williamson
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