Steamboat Planning Commission recommends approval of hotel on Pine Grove Road despite outcry from residents
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The only old standing pine grove on Pine Grove Road in Steamboat Springs might soon be replaced by a new hotel.
“It’s just a bit silly in my mind. Putting this development in will not only be an eyesore, it would get rid of the only standing pine grove on Pine Grove,” said Logan McKee, a former resident of 1480 Pine Grove Road, during last week’s city of Steamboat Springs Planning Commission meeting. “It’s also a major wildlife crossing from the mountain down to the Yampa.”
Local residents and historians showed up at the meeting to hear about plans to build a four-story Residence Inn by Marriott at Pine Grove and Rollingstone roads and express their concerns about the project.
The 2.7 acres once belonged to the Selbe family, who first settled in the Yampa Valley in 1942. The property is mostly surrounded by a weathered wood fence, and except for the towering pines, many people drive by it every day, oblivious to its history. It sits right behind Safeway.
Leon Hurley, one of the hotel development partners, carefully laid out how they worked with city staff to meet strict requirements.
“We used a Steamboat civil engineer, so that he knew the exact codes and is familiar with the city process and requirements,” Hurley said.
The Historic Preservation Commission first alerted city officials to the old buildings on the property with hopes of preserving them as “rustic style craftsmanship,” but it soon became clear the bigger issues among those opposing the project was the size of the hotel and how it would possibly affect neighboring Fish Creek. Those commenting during the commission meeting also noted traffic as a huge concern on Pine Grove Road.
“Traffic is already ridiculous,” said Steamboat resident Michael Osterman. “This project is being shoehorned into this property. It shouldn’t be there. It’s not the right place — a Residence Inn should be out on (U.S. Highway) 40.”
City Planning Community and Development Director Rebecca Bessey said the developers have mitigated any impacts the new hotel would have on traffic it creates. They agreed to work with the city to develop a turn lane on Rollingstone and medians on Pine Grove. Developers will also contribute $40,000 for an enhanced pedestrian crossing.
Planning Commissioner Martyn Kingston also pressed the developers about impacts on the environment.
“From my amateur understanding, from a sustainability perspective, we’re taking away heavy, heavy mature vegetation close to Fish Creek,” said Kingston, pointing at the parking lot design next to Fish Creek. “We have heavy asphalt and very little vegetation being proposed and almost total removal of mature vegetation.”
Hurley and Steamboat civil engineer Eric Griepentrog, of Landmark Consultants, assured commissioners they followed mitigation requirements to ensure “100 percent of water on our site” is captured and treated before going into the creek through one single source location.
A special retaining wall will also be installed to keep dirt fill and extra snow in the parking lot from falling into the creek.
“We tried to pull everything we could away from the creek,” to minimize erosion and capture pollutants, Griepentrog said. “We designed the project to meet the city’s strict requirements for managing runoff and preserving the environmental health of Fish Creek.”
But it appears city staff itself could be to blame for some of the vegetation loss along the creek.
“We were originally told the bike trail wasn’t intended to be on our side,” said Hurley.
But then city staff asked the Residence Inn developers to add a bike path.
“We want to provide this amenity to the city, but there’s no doubt, it’s going to take out a lot of trees,” Hurley said.
Dr. Paul Andrews also spoke out about the project at Tuesday’s meeting. He has an office opposite the creek. He said 20 years ago the Professional Buildings on Anglers Drive were required to preserve huge trees and adhere to setbacks from the creek.
“We were forced to create a sidewalk, a pathway from Rollingstone to Safeway,” Andrews said. “It’s the most beautiful wooded site … now we’ll be looking at the side of a big four-story building.”
Site plans do show the developers will be able to save some vegetation along the creek, and they’re adding trees as well.
When asked by commissioners why the path already built on the north side of the creek isn’t enough, Bessey said the current sidewalk along Fish Creek wasn’t designed to meet trail standards. So, the hotel developers agreed to build and maintain an 8-foot-wide trail along their side of the creek. The city plans to eventually connect it to the Yampa River Core Trail.
Despite pleas from community speakers, the planning commission voted 5-2 to recommend approval of the development plan for the hotel project.
Planning commissioner Michael Buccino told the small crowd that he had lived in Steamboat for 23 years without ever going onto the private property.
“If you guys wanted to do something else and preserve it, you should have bought it,” said Buccino. “I haven’t heard enough to vote this down based upon our government and the way it works. They have a right to build what they want.”
Commissioners Martyn Kingston and Bryan Adams voted “no” on the current plan and reminded everyone that hotel development is a “conditional use” project, meaning the city can attach conditions and require public hearings to determine if the use is appropriate in that location.
Local business owner Tim Wrinn is ready to take the fight to the Steamboat Springs City Council meeting on Feb. 5 to block approval.
“There’s not another building around there that’s four stories high,” Wrinn said. “I don’t care what your code is. It’s gonna stick out like a sore thumb.”
Barbara Robinson, Holiday Inn Steamboat Springs general manager and current vice-chair for the Steamboat Springs Chamber’s Lodging Committee, said a hotel on Pine Grove Road might not be so unusual.
“It would be right across from a commercial Legacy Vacation Club that’s been there forever, and nobody notices it,” Robinson said. “It would be an answer to high-end condominiums on the mountain … for families who want to stay a week or two. It might even work for workforce housing.”
Plans for the Residence Inn at Marriott call for the building height to be 57 feet tall, and the city allows buildings in that zone to be as tall as 63 feet.
The property at 1480 Pine Grove Road was bought in 2007 from a Selbe heir for $5.7 million dollars by a developer. The recession hit, and a bank eventually took over the property.
According to the Routt County Assessor’s records, Citizens Bank sold the property in October 2013 for $1,365,000 to Robert Critchley and SBS Century Real Estate Holdings, run by Jack McClurg. Realtor Darrin Fryer is also part owner of the property.
This Steamboat/Denver partnership plans to hire a historian to document the buildings on the property and its history with plans to save some of the woodwork from the old buildings to incorporate into the new hotel.
Steamboat Springs Arianthe Stettner researched the history of the Selbe property and her notes are attached as a document with this article.
If approved, the Residence Inn by Marriott plans to have 110 rooms, including studios and one- to two-bedroom suites with full kitchens. There will also be an outdoor pool and spa, a fitness room, guest laundry, dining area, meeting space and ski and bike valet. They expect to employ 15 to 20 workers.
If approved by City Council on Feb. 5 and permitting goes smoothly, Hurley expects construction to start in April with the hotel opening in July 2020.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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