Sonja Macys: Public deserves to understand council’s Marriott project decision
I hope my friend and colleague Scott Ford’s recent column helped people understand Steamboat Springs City Council’s quasi-judicial role. Scott clarified the quasi-judicial process when a proposed use is allowed in a zone district. He did not clarify what happens in a case like the recent Pine Grove/Marriott project, when a proposed use is not allowed in that zone district unless a “conditional use” is approved.
In the city, hotels are only allowed within one zone district. The Pine Grove/Marriott project zone district is not within that zone district. A hotel is only allowed there as a “conditional use.” The Community Development Code describes conditional use as follows:
“Conditional uses may have greater impacts to surrounding properties and the community than by-right and limited uses. Conditions and additional standards may be imposed through the conditional use process to avoid or minimize specific impacts.”
The two (of four) criteria for conditional use that sparked dissension were: 1) compatible with the direction and policies in the Community Plan and other applicable adopted plans; 2) mitigates negative impacts.
Councilwoman Lisel Petis had traffic concerns, which I share. She did not feel there was sufficient mitigation for the volume of traffic associated with a hotel. I noted the project’s inconsistency with the Community Plan’s Chapter 7 (and others) and many elements of the Yampa River Health Assessment and Streamflow Management Plan.
As Scott noted, “Council, in its quasi-judicial role, needs to set aside all personal opinions and focus on findings of fact.” Steamboat Pilot & Today’s editorial suggested that we ought not “bow to public pressure.” My dissent did not come from public pressure or personal opinion. In dissenting, I concluded that the conditional use criteria outlined in the code were not met through the current Pine Grove/Marriott project design. I believe the developer should have been given an opportunity to bring the project back when it met those criteria.
It is healthy for council to have spirited debates and disagree on issues. And it is important that the community understand council’s decisions. Whether you agree or disagree with the outcome on the Pine Grove/Marriott, you deserve to understand it.
Many opportunities for improvement came to light through this project. In the coming weeks. I’ll be presenting ideas for process improvements, code improvements and working toward a return to civil dialogue between council and the public; one in which all voices can be heard.
Steamboat Springs City Council member
Although I am a member of City Council, my opinions are my own and may or may not be shared by my fellow members.
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