Steamboat council delays approval of preliminary development application for Longview project
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In preparation for phase three of a development on the ridge along High Point Drive, a resolution on the preliminary plat application was tabled by Steamboat Springs City Council in a 6-1 vote during the Tuesday, Jan. 7, meeting.
The consensus among council members was they wanted to know more about the project and want the opportunity to approve the preliminary plat concurrently with the development plan.
The applicant, Longview Village, Inc., has already built the first two phases of its development — Longview Highlands and Longview Park — on the 36-acre property.
Those neighborhoods consist of single-family homes and townhomes. The new development, Longview Village, would be built on the side of the property next to U.S. Highway 40 and neighboring the Legacy Hilltop Hotel. That plan proposes constructing 13 multi-family buildings with a total of 118 units on 9.4 acres.
About 20 members in the council meeting’s audience raised their hands when asked who in attendance was against the project.
Much of the discussion revolved around the “skyline overlay,” a restriction created about 20 years ago to ensure any development that protrudes into the skyline from significant viewpoints meet certain standards to minimize the visual impact.
The applicant, represented at the meeting by Walter Magill of Four Points Surveying and Engineering, sought a partial waiver to the skyline overlay, so some of the buildings would be allowed to partially protrude above the overlay
If the overlay was entirely waived, the builder could build up to 63 feet. But Magill showed a plan in which the highest building rose to 53 feet, with all other buildings below that. The proposal also included plans to mitigate the visual impact with vegetation, as well as building color and material.
According to a report from Four Points Surveying and Engineering, “the new development will not impact the skyline in any significant manner.”
Examining the site from six viewpoints, only two would be impacted in any significant manner, the report stated, and those viewpoints are “not visually significant viewing areas; as any buildings along U.S. Highway 40, when viewed straight up at it, will impact the skyline. The anticipated skyline protrusions will not obscure any of the valley’s scenic views due to the fact that nothing can be seen from these vantage points other than blue sky and power lines.”
About 10 people spoke out against the project during public comments at Tuesday’s council meeting. Nearly all lived close to the proposed development.
In addition to the visual impact, detractors brought up concerns about traffic and drainage and also voiced their concerns about removing existing vegetation and how long it would take the new “mitigation” vegetation to grow large enough to actually be a mitigating factor.
Pertaining to the requirement that the new development be compatible with existing development, one neighbor argued that “cramming 118 housing units on 9.4 acres” was not compatible.
One woman who does not live in the neighborhood argued the skyline overlay was put into place for a reason and for the public good, and she didn’t see any reason it should be subverted, other than for the private gain of the developer.
Several neighbors spoke about what they described as a poor track record by the developer.
Bob Keenan, principal planner for the Planning and Community Development Department, told council the impact of the proposed development was minimal, and “the skyline has already been interrupted.” He also called the approval a decision that weighed the pros and cons of minimal impact and providing additional housing for the community.
The Four Points report argues the new development would actually soften and improve the skyline given the existing Legacy Hilltop Hotel’s “protrusion into the skyline.”
Council member Michael Buccino pointed out that other townhomes are already visible, as is the Legacy Hilltop Hotel, which he described as “the pimple on the hill.”
Traffic was also a significant part of the discussion.
Magill said a traffic study had already been ordered, but those results would be part of the development plan. The proposal includes turning the now private Highpoint Drive into a public street.
“It feels strange looking at this in absence of a development plan as well,” council member Sonja Macys said in introducing her motion to table the preliminary plat approval.
Council President Jason Lacy said he agreed with Macys’ motion to table the preliminary plat because he needed more information about the type of housing that would be provided by the proposed development before he would be able to weigh in.
Council member Lisel Petis said she wanted more information about whether any or all the units would meet the qualifications to be considered affordable housing.
Council member Heather Sloop was the sole council member to vote against the resolution. She defended her “no” vote by asserting the plan put forth by the developer was only a “worst case scenario,” and she didn’t want to set a precedent by saying preliminary plats would only be considered concurrently with development plans.
Council member Kathi Meyer said she was willing to second Macy’s motion because she still had more questions than answers.
“Without seeing the total project, in this case, I’m having difficulty getting behind this proposal,” Meyer said.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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