John Lanterman: Project is wrong for Steamboat
The proposed project at 12th and Lincoln has many negative impacts on the character of downtown Steamboat Springs and should have never been approved. Its size and design will erode our beautiful and authentic downtown. Reasons to not build include:
• It’s just too big. Imagine driving into downtown from the west. The first thing that greets you as you pass our beautiful library and Little Toots Park is a five-story building. That’s taller than any building on Lincoln in downtown. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
• The entire main level of the building is required to be commercial according to the city. Only a portion of the front along Lincoln is commercial. The great majority is residential.
• There is a double garage door facing Lincoln Avenue. Not only is that unsightly, it violates a key principal of good downtown design: Make the pedestrian feel comfortable and safe. A double garage door is not welcoming or pedestrian friendly. Cars entering and exiting the building mid-block are not safe. You want a bustling and successful Lincoln Avenue? Make it welcoming with retail storefronts, restaurants and other activities — not garage doors.
• A height variance of 13 feet was granted. That is the equivalent of an additional floor, bringing the overall height to five stories, which is out of scale for downtown Steamboat Springs. In fact, the overall height is not allowed based on the zoning without a variance. And there was no reason to grant the variance.
• There are three floors directly on Lincoln Avenue. That is not in keeping with the overall character of Lincoln Avenue. Look at the buildings on Lincoln. They are typically either one or two stories, with the third story set back in newer projects. The proposed building is out of character for downtown.
To approve the project, the City Council awarded 13 variances. There needs to be hardship to grant a variance. The developer implied he needs the proposed density, meaning granting all the variances that erode the character of downtown Steamboat, to ensure profitability and move forward with the project.
It is the job of the Planning Commission and City Council to balance the needs and long-term vision of Steamboat Springs with appropriate development that maintains the character of the town for future generations. It is not the job of the Planning Commission and City Council to maximize the profits of a private developer.
As an example, the developer said the shallow water table is a hardship. A hardship is a unique circumstance. There are other documented locations of a shallow water table in downtown. It is the responsibility of the developer to know this. The water table is not a hardship.
The developer also said he is providing affordable rental housing for residents. This is a great goal. The problem is the proposed project is not affordable or necessarily even rental housing. The developer retains the option to convert to condominiums that can be sold at market rate.
The city approved the project for workforce rental housing but took no steps to guarantee that would be the case. It is market rate, meaning the developer can charge as much as possible based on the market. My understanding is five units are rent restricted.
The city is working hard to create a great downtown, and they are doing an excellent job. This proposed project will be an eyesore and greatly change the character of our downtown. The proposed building also sets a precedent for future development within all of downtown Steamboat Springs.
These short-term decisions have a lasting impact. This project needs to be substantially redesigned before moving forward.
John Lanterman, ASLA, PLA
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