Steamboat City Council will not reconsider approval of Pine Grove Road hotel proposal
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13 to include a sidebar on the decision-making process.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Garnering boos, expletives and promises that they wouldn’t be re-elected from an audience who packed Centennial Hall on Tuesday night, Steamboat Springs City Council members Robin Crossan, Kathi Meyer and Scott Ford opted not to reconsider their approval of a development plan to build a Residence Inn by Marriott on Pine Grove Road.
The Steamboat Springs City Council and Planning Commission make two types of decisions: quasi-judicial and legislative.
Legislative decisions are those involved in making and revising city code. Most project-specific decisions are quasi-judicial, or court-like, in which decision makers essentially serve as a judge. In approving variances, conditional use permits and development plans, the Planning Commission and City Council make quasi-judicial decisions
In quasi-judicial procedures, decision makers must follow specific rules:
• Providing notice of public hearings and holding public hearings
• All facts considered in the decision must be presented in the meeting, just as evidence considered in a jury proceeding must be introduced in the courtroom. Decisions must be based on the facts introduced in the meeting, not on political pressure or vocal opposition
• Decision makers must be unbiased and without conflicts of interest.
Quasi-judicial decisions require the governing body determine if the project meets the specific requirements of the code. If the quasi-judicial procedure is not followed, the decision, if challenged, could be invalidated by a court.
In the Pine Grove Road hotel decision, council determined that plans for the project were consistent with the specific code requirements regarding the building’s character, mitigation of impacts to the environment, vehicular access, setbacks and future land use. One major variance was granted for building height, as council and the planning commission determined that a 12-foot ceiling in ground-floor guest rooms achieves a “better result for hotel use” than having 14-foot ceilings in ground floor guest rooms.
More information on these criteria is available in documents presented at the meeting, which are available online at steamboatsprings.net.
Only those three council members, who voted to approve the plan during a Feb. 5 council meeting, could have made a motion to reconsider the decision, and all three declined to do so.
Council members Lisel Petis and Sonja Macys opposed the approval of a variance, development plan and conditional use permit for the project in the council’s 3-2 vote last week.
Council members Heather Sloop and Jason Lacy recused themselves from the discussions. Both told Steamboat Pilot & Today they stepped down due to client relationships, though they were not involved in the planning application process.
Tuesday’s meeting opened with an explanation of the process from City Attorney Dan Foote.
The special meeting was called without enough time to provide formal public notice of a public hearing on a land use decision. In a quasi-judicial role, City Council is asked to make a determination on whether the proposal meets the regulations outlined in the city’s planning and community development code.
Because City Council operates in a quasi-judicial manner on land use decisions, council members are only allowed to consider the information presented on the record in the meeting during which they made the decision.
“Your discussion of the reconsideration should be based on the record that was produced last Tuesday, on Feb. 5,” Foote said. “I do not believe it would be appropriate for you to take evidence or testimony or public comment tonight.”
Foote asked council members if they had discussed the issue with the public. Each council member involved in the decision said they had conversations after the approval was granted, but they declined to comment on the project after receiving word that reconsideration was on the agenda.
All agreed that it would not impact their decision.
Crossan was the first to offer an explanation as to why she would not move to reconsider the approval.
“If you own your property, you have the opportunity to do what by law you’re allowed to do on that property,” she said. “This piece of property was zoned commercial, and the people that own the property would like to develop it. You might not like that, but that’s what the zoning says.
“The people that owned the property chose to sell it, not to do anything historic with the property and the buildings on the property,” she added, addressing concerns about the log homes on the property.
Crossan said the community created the traffic problem on Rollingstone Drive and Pine Grove Road, and that a “million dollar solution” should not be placed on the back of one person or entity.
“We are the problem,” she said. “We drive that road. We turn left.”
She encouraged the community to find a creative solution to fix the problem.
“I believe in rules. When we as a community make a set of rules, we have to abide by them,” Meyer said. “When we don’t like them, we work to change them — not change it during a hearing. That’s not our process. That’s not what we promised each other.
“I will not be making a motion to reconsider,” Meyer continued. “I don’t think I have changed my mind. I think we did a thorough job last week.”
Ford’s comment on the matter was brief.
“Pass,” he said, when offered an opportunity to explain his position or make the motion.
Macys asked if she could explain why she sought a motion to reconsider from other council members.
“It just died,” Meyer replied. “The three of us chose not to make a motion.”
Much of the standing-room-only audience left in an uproar, muttering curse words, threatening lawsuits and booing the council members sitting behind the dais.
To view the meeting in which this topic was discussed, visit docs.steamboatsprings.net:10100/OnBaseAgendaOnline.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.