Mike Lawrence: Termites holding hands | SteamboatToday.com

Mike Lawrence: Termites holding hands

Decaying base area needs city's housing plan

Mike Lawrence

— Chris Diamond can be very diplomatic.

Diamond, president of the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., was one of several members of the Base Area Reinvestment Coalition, or BARC, who met with most of the Steamboat Springs City Council for lunch at Centennial Hall last Friday. The pizza-and-salad meeting was informal, but informative. Without the usual protocol trappings of a City Council event – and without any members of the public in attendance, except for Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley member Rich Levy – BARC and the council freely discussed the city’s creation of a housing plan that BARC hopes will spur development at the base area.

Here comes the diplomatic part.

“If we can get this plan together in the near term, that would help clarify things,” Diamond told the council. “Our concern is that this process is efficient in delivering a large need – and we aren’t seeing that right now.”

Diamond may as well have said: “Pardon me, City Council, but kindly hurry up. Create a housing plan and let’s get this base area ball rolling.”

The timing is certainly urgent. For the next several years there will be only two seasons in Steamboat: winter and construction. There are so many projects in the works that the sound of heavy machinery will be deafening from anywhere in town next summer.

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Some people say base area redevelopment can’t happen fast enough.

“The termites are holding hands to hold this thing up,” Chuck Porter said at Friday’s meeting. Porter is manager of the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, which, like the ski area, is for sale.

With the termite statement, Porter was referring to several public and private buildings around Ski Time Square. He cited structural problems, outdated electrical wiring and even asbestos concerns that are only getting worse and will ultimately escalate redevelopment costs.

Remember when part of the floor at Levelz – also the roof at Lupo’s – caved in last February because of a “support beam failure” during a Swollen Members concert?

The Sheraton Steamboat Resort owned the building at the time of the failure, which caused no injuries, and the resulting evacuation. So Porter knows a thing or two about structural problems in old facilities.

But council member Towny Anderson told Porter that downtown, profuse developer Jim Cook is successfully dealing with similar problems.

“With Riverwalk, everything you described is included in his proposal,” Anderson said of Cook’s riverfront project on the former site of Westland Mobile Home Park, which has recently undergone rampant demolition, not to mention a fire or two.

“And he’s had asbestos at the Harbor Hotel,” Anderson added.

Diamond countered that the base area is “a different animal” than downtown, involving much larger projects and potentially hundreds of millions of redevelopment dollars.

Council member Karen Post disagreed, saying the same city plans and regulations should apply to both downtown and the base area.

The complexity of those discussions does not bode well for a speedy creation of a housing plan to iron out the rules for residential development. The base area and the council’s PUD revisions, which deal with commercial development, are also intertwined with a housing plan.

While the council met last night to address base area and housing issues, it’s a safe bet that much work still needs to be done.

“There may be more than one vision on this council,” council member Loui Antonucci said Friday.

How diplomatic.