Steamboat council approves development plan for new hotel on Pine Grove Road
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs City Council approved a development plan to build a Residence Inn at Marriott behind the Safeway grocery store after a half hour of mostly negative public comments followed by debate between council members.
“We go to this decision based on the code we have and not the code we want,” said Scott Ford, who voted to approve the 110-room hotel project at the corner of Pine Grove Road and Rollingstone Drive. The property sits in the middle of a community commercial zone in the city.
Council members Sonja Macys and Lisel Petis voted against the development because of complaints about traffic and how the project will affect the riparian area along Fish Creek that runs along the south side of the 2.7-acre property. They said since the developers were seeking a conditional-use permit, City Council has the right to deny development if it doesn’t meet the objectives of the community area plan.
“My objection to the development is that it directly runs counter to many of the goals of our area plan related to wildlife migration corridors and riparian habitat and riparian protections,” Macys said.
Council members Ford, Kathi Meyer and Robin Crossan, who voted in favor of the proposal, pointed out that the group of developers and owners from Steamboat Springs and Denver worked closely with the city to meet every criteria the building code had set out, including setting the building back from the creek and treating storm water drainage.
Council members Jason Lacy and Heather Sloop recused themselves from the discussion and the vote.
Ford said every hotel built in Steamboat is under a “conditional-use” permit but that nobody in the city planning department can explain why.
Minority developer Leon Hurley explained to council and a packed meeting that the property could have been developed under a “use by right” permit, which would allow owners to build anything from a nursing home, office building, vacation rental or even a big box store. Use by right would not be subject to a special review and approval by a local government.
“We feel it (the Residence Inn) fits in with the uses around it,” Hurley said. “On the east side of us is Safeway, across the street is retail and offices and to the west an office building and across the street is a vacation club rental.”
Members of the public spoke about the grove of old pine trees on the property — the last pine grove standing on Pine Grove Road.
“If we have all those pines cut down, would we change the name of the road to Marriott Avenue,” Steamboat resident Bill Whittemore asked.
The council also received many letters and emails concerning the historic significance of the property — an issue that was raised at an earlier Planning Commission meeting where the development plan ultimately received the commissioners’ endorsement.
Darrin Fryer, a minority owner of the land who is not involved on the development side of the project, reminded audience members about private property rights.
“Being a minority owner, there was a lot of trust when we bought the property,” said Fryer, a local realtor who has lived in Steamboat Springs for 17 years. “We read all the rules and regulations by the city … without that trust you wouldn’t know what you’re getting. This can affect every person who buys a piece of land. What if everyone in your neighborhood said, ‘We want your land to build a park on’?”
Fryer said the landowners looked for a number of ways to save mature trees on the site and agreed with Meyer that a city bicycle path could be narrowed and “meandered” along the creek to save trees.
Many of the residents complained traffic is already bad in the area of the proposed hotel development.
City Engineer Ben Beall agreed that the left turn from Rollingstone to Pine Grove gets an official “F” in traffic terms, but he said the developers have agreed to mitigate the effect of traffic created by their potential customers and workers by limiting movement in and out of the hotel, improving a crosswalk and working with the city to add medians, turn lanes and a roundabout that were already part of the city’s long-term traffic plans.
In the end, council members agreed that if people want to make a difference in how the future of their city looks, they have to get involved in community planning to affect how building codes will be passed and implemented.
“Regardless of what our individual opinion is, we’re acting as judges on evidence,” Ford said. “Planning staff and planning commission have done their due diligence. We weigh the facts as it’s written in code.”
If permitting goes smoothly, Hurley expects construction on the hotel to start in April with a July 2020 opening.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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