Steamboat planning commission approves outdoor dining space in downtown alleyway |

Steamboat planning commission approves outdoor dining space in downtown alleyway

The revitalization project goes to city council next month

An elevated outdoor dining space on the backside of the building at 729 Lincoln Ave. was approved by the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission on Thursday, April 27, 2023.
Steamboat Architectural Associates/Courtesy photo

Editor’s note: This story was updated with the correct spelling of Bill Rangitsch’s name.

As a means to improve alleyways in the downtown area, the owner of 729 Lincoln Ave. in Steamboat Springs requested a major variance for an elevated outdoor seating area on the back of the building.

After considering a major variance and a few comments regarding noise, the Planning Commission approved the project unanimously Thursday, April 27. Commissioner Andrew Summers had to sit out of the discussion and could not vote, as he said his firm was involved in the project.

Jim Cook, who was representing the owners of the building, said the project would give more seating to a downtown eatery and therefore could boost sales taxes. He said it also would help move the city closer to his vision of what Steamboat’s downtown could be.

“It fulfills at least what has been my vision for the alleys,” Cook said. “And that’s having people walk the alleys, and ride their bikes in the alleys and create businesses that will serve the community at large.”

The project would improve upon and put a deck on the back of the building that is home to West Lyfe, The Core and Del Mezcal.

If approved, the historic facade would remain intact as the entrance to the lower level would be upgraded and a staircase would be built to a covered, elevated dining space.

While the project renderings include signage for a theoretical restaurant, any signs would have to go through a separate approval process. 

For the project, the owner requested a variance to the rear setback, which typically sits 10 feet behind the property line. Presenter Bill Rangitsch of Steamboat Architectural Associates asked for a 3-foot, 3-inch setback instead of the 1,500-square-foot seating area, which would service any upstairs restaurant tenant, rather than on the lower level.

Photos and renderings compare what the alley-side of 729 Lincoln Ave. looks like now and what it could look like with the new plans approved by the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission on Thursday, April 27, 2023.
Steamboat Architectural Associates/Courtesy photo

Outdoor seating is a use by right in the Commercial Old Town Zone, and if the deck had been 30 inches or less above the ground, it would not have needed to come before the commission. However, raising the deck was important to sustaining the three parking spaces, improving snow storage and allowing all trash and recycling to be stashed out of view. Commissioners Robert Rusher Jr. and Rich Levy said they would have liked the plan far less if the deck had been at ground level.

Staff had recommended the commission support the proposal, even though there were two written public comments opposing the work.

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Bert Halberstadt, a resident at Howelsen Place next door, spoke out at the Planning Commission meeting to expresses his concerns about how the expansion of the building would have a negative effect on the quality of life for him and other nearby residents.

“I’d like you to determine, based on your own knowledge of being in the alley, our neighborhood,” Halberstadt said. “This is an active (area), one of the most desirable walking areas in the city.”

He and the two written complaints feared the noise from the future diners would disturb the area. 

Senior Planner Kelly Douglas reminded the commissioners that Howelsen Place and all surrounding buildings are downtown and subject to the same noise ordinances as every other business and building. 

“Interaction between commercial and residential uses is expected. It’s encouraged,” Douglas said. “It leads to a vibrant downtown, and we have noise ordinances in place to try to balance those uses.”

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