Steamboat city hall, fire station gets final approval, City Council continues parking discussion
Council members want to conduct larger downtown parking study that could eventually lead to a parking structure
The project to build Steamboat Springs’ new city hall and downtown fire station got final approvals on Tuesday, April 4, though parking remains a concern.
The new city hall will sit on what is currently a parking lot, and a new civic plaza will remove some more spaces, equating to a total reduction of 41 parking spaces downtown — a loss of about 1.5% of downtown’s 2,770 spaces.
While two Steamboat Springs City Council members objected to rezoning the parcel for the project and closing 10th Street for the plaza, four other members said the project addresses problems the city cannot ignore.
“The city hall is being built for the right reasons. The fire station is being built for the right reasons,” council member Michael Buccino said. “Unfortunately, we’re losing parking, but we can mitigate that with our own decisions.”
In a 4-2 vote, council approved the rezoning and the vacation of 10th Street, with council members Heather Sloop and Dakotah McGinlay opposed. Council member Ed Briones was not present.
Sloop has expressed her opposition to the project before, showing disappointment in the city’s process that has some local businesses feeling they have not been kept in the loop about impacts like parking and traffic. She voted against the ordinances on first reading and against a supplemental budget request on Tuesday while citing increasing costs for the project.
McGinlay’s opposition surfaced Tuesday, with her saying she too was disappointed that residents and nearby business owners feel they haven’t been heard by the city.
“I see the city’s good intentions with the process,” McGinlay said. “But it kind of breaks my heart that a lot of people feel like they weren’t involved in this process and that we kind of are seemingly creating our own process here for our own benefit, even though I do believe it’s for the public benefit as well. … I’m struggling.”
Comments have largely come from businesses to the west of the new city complex that are worried they will suffer because of the reduced parking.
Izabela Golaszewski, who owns the adjacent Nordic Lodge, has attended Planning Commission and City Council meetings to express her frustrations and ask that council address not only the parking impacts, but also the potential traffic on the alley between 11th and 10th streets that passes through the Nordic Lodge.
“The approval of this project is being done backwards,” Golaszewski said. “We really don’t know what the impact is going to be after this whole project is over. We don’t know if there’s going to be survival of some of the businesses (on 11th Street) altogether.”
City staff have asserted they did reach out to nearby businesses and invite the broader community to public forums about the project. Staff have also said it is not the responsibility of one proposed development on private property to address downtown-wide issues, even if the applicant is the city.
“No one application is responsible for all of downtown’s parking, whether it’s a perceived problem or not,” Senior City Planner Kelly Douglas, who has conducted the planning department’s review of the proposal, told council. “It’s a question of whether you feel the standards proposed in the custom zoning district are appropriate.”
Ultimately, the majority of the council members felt the standards proposed were appropriate, though they expressed a desire to spend more time this year on downtown parking in general. They also indicated they were open to closing the alley in question to through traffic.
“I think that’s something that could be brought back up and discussed again,” City Council President Robin Crossan said about the alley. “It’s done, but it’s not set in stone.”
Council also indicated support for a larger downtown parking study that would review demand and assess the need for a parking structure somewhere downtown. Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby emphasized that a downtown-focused study would be separate from the one the city is pursuing for Howelsen Hill.
In September, City Council plans to hold a work session focused on downtown parking, and some council members expressed a desire to conduct a study before that meeting. Buccino suggested they should review building a new parking structure where there is currently public parking on 8th Street.
“At one point, one of these City Councils is the one that is going to make the decision to build a parking garage,” Buccino said. “That’s hopefully what we’re going to get to when we start talking in September.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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