Steamboat Springs Planning Commission approves museum project

Jack Weinstein

— A project that has become controversial in recent days got final approval Thursday.

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission, by a 6-0 vote and without discussion, approved the final development plan and planned unit development for the Tread of Pioneers Museum to construct a new collections building on its site at Eighth and Oak streets. Planning Commission member Kathi Meyer recused herself for what she called an “inadvertent conflict” with the project but didn’t elaborate.

The museum will demolish the existing collections building, a house that was built in 1900. A group of residents recently had opposed the demolition, citing the building’s value as a historic structure. It is not listed on any historic register.

Former Historic Routt County Director Towny Anderson co-authored a letter sent to the museum’s board of directors in October to reconsider demolishing the building. Anderson, one of two letter co-authors who opposed the project Thursday, made the same plea to Planning Commission members.

“Preservation is about attitude; it’s about an ethic,” he said. “It’s about how you approach what you plan to do. And it doesn’t ensure that every historic resource is safe at all costs, nor does it prohibit any and all plans for development. It simply means that we approach our ambitions for expansion and community development from a perspective that asks first, ‘Can this historic resource be an integral part of our plans?’”

In place of the existing collections building, a structure with more than 1,800 additional square feet that is better suited to house historic artifacts will be constructed. It will be connected to the existing museum with additional exhibit space behind the snowcat display.

Although she acknowledged the age of the house, Tread of Pioneers board member Jayne Hill said it wasn’t historically significant. She said a notable local figure didn’t live there and the building wasn’t architecturally relevant. Hill added that the decision to demolish was made during a three-year period.

After the meeting, Tread of Pioneers board President John Marshall said discussions about how to rehabilitate the museum’s storage space have taken place for 15 years. He said the museum tried to give away the house, which he noted had asbestos and lead paint, and there were no takers.

Eric Smith, the project’s architect, said many parts of the building no longer meet current building codes.

“For someone to move it, they’d have to put in a new foundation, new floor, new roof, new walls, new windows and new siding,” he said. “Once they spend the money to move this, there’s no value that they have.”

City Planner Seth Lorson said the project had four variances, for front and side setbacks, floor-area ratio and parking, but complied with city codes.

A pre-application for the project was heard Sept. 14 by the Historic Preservation Commission, Sept. 22 by the Planning Commission and Oct. 18 by the Steamboat Springs City Council.

The City Council is scheduled to consider the final development plan and planned unit development Dec. 20

Marshall said the collections would be moved to a storage facility by March or April. He said construction would begin in May or June with completion anticipated by December.

Also at Thursday night’s meeting, the Planning Commission:

■ Unanimously approved a Hungry Dog hot dog cart that will be located behind Christy Sports in Gondola Square.

■ Unanimously voted to retain Jason Lacy as chairman and Meyer as vice chairwoman.

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