Planning Commission ‘blesses’ United Methodist’s building plan |

Planning Commission ‘blesses’ United Methodist’s building plan

— Steamboat Springs Planning Commission voted 3-0 Thursday night to send both United Methodist Church’s plans to expand its campus on Oak Street and the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s 48-unit income-restricted affordable apartment project, the Reserves, on to City Council with a recommendation for approval at its Jan. 5 meeting.

And it was a good thing the vote was unanimous.

Typically, seven planning commissioners vote on every development permit application. But two of the most seasoned planning commission members were elected to City Council in November and haven’t been replaced. And two other commissioners were not in attendance. That left Commission Chairman Charlie MacArthur and commissioners George Eck and Martyn Kingston to weigh the merits of the two projects.

Planning staff confirmed before the meeting that the three remaining commission members represented a legal quorum only if they voted unanimously either to recommend approval or denial; a 2-1 vote would not have stood up.

The two projects had already been through a conceptual review before Planning Commission, and although both proponents were seeking code variances, neither posed any significant concerns for the commission.

United Methodist hopes to demolish an old parsonage no longer used for that purpose in order to create a new Spiritual Life Center, which will expand the ability of the church to host diverse, often non-religious public meetings.

The current Methodist Church sanctuary was built in the 1950s by prominent Denver architect Eugene Sternberg and the new addition was designed by Mountain Architecture Design Group to honor the original building’s lines.

Principal planner Rebecca Bessey told the commission that United Methodist was seeking both a building height variance and permission to build more usable square feet than the city’s “floor area ratio” requirements allow. However, she said the 1,100-square-foot floor area variance was contained underneath a roof line.

Questioned by Eck, Mountain Architecture Design associate Chancie Keenan said the additional space requiring the variance is a floor within a vaulted roof that would be used for storage.

After the meeting, United Methodist pastor Tim Selby said his congregation has always taken pride in providing the broad community with a large meeting space and kitchen that functions as a community center in the heart of Old Town. The new building would expand the ability of the church to host community events, both secular and nonsecular.

“Why I’m excited about this project is that it’s geared for the use of the community,” Selby said. “The real purpose is to serve many people in the heart of downtown Steamboat Springs. We host events five nights a week and have to turn people away.”

He added that United Methodist has $1.3 million from gifts and estates to put toward the estimated $2.5 million cost of the project and will launch a fundraising campaign.

The commission also found little to quibble over with Yampa Valley Housing Authority Executive Director Jason Peasley’s request for minor variances at the Reserves, which would suit the residential nature of the two apartment buildings, plus an onsite office building.

The project will target residents who earn between 40 and 60 percent of the Routt County median income and offers two- and three-bedroom apartments that would accommodate families.

“We’re developing apartments for the obvious reason that the rental market is going crazy right now,” Peasley said. “There haven’t been any low-income apartments built in the community in 20 years.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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