Project stalled

Commission tables decision about Wildhorse complex

— Wildhorse is not yet ready to run, city officials said Thursday night.

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission did not approve two initial proposals for Wildhorse Meadows, a large residential and commercial development project near the base of Steamboat Ski Area. After nearly four hours of discussion, the commission tabled motions to approve the preliminary plat and development plan for the project, citing excessive and unclear variances to city building ordinances, as well as possible obstruction of southern views along Mount Werner Circle.

"Every single parcel (of proposed development) has variances," said commission vice chairwoman Dana Stopher, who called a lack of specific dimensions in the plan "very disturbing."

"My issue with variances is that we've been burned before," she said.

The proposal for Wildhorse Meadows includes 607 residential units, including condominiums, a condominium hotel, single-family homes, townhomes and affordable housing. Retail space, a restaurant, an educational center, public trails and a gondola carrying passengers to the ski area base also are part of the project, which would be built on a 47-acre plot bordered on the west by The Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs and the ski area's Meadows Parking Lot, and bordered on the east by Mount Werner Circle.

RP Steamboat LLC, is leading the Wildhorse Meadows project. Partners David Hill, Brent Pearson and Whitney Ward presented the preliminary plat and development plan to the commission Thursday. A plat is a layout that explains how to use parcels of land. A development plan defines what can be built on those parcels. In tabling these proposals, Planning Commission chairwoman Kathi Meyer said that despite support for many parts of the project from commission members, too many variables exist to move forward.

Wildhorse planners have two weeks to fix those variables. The Planning Commission will hold a special meeting July 6 to hear a revised preliminary plat and development plan.

Much of Thursday's discussion centered on two parcels of proposed residential development on the east side of Wildhorse Meadows, on Mount Werner Circle. Residences plan--ned for the parcels, according to the development plan, would be built on a steep, 30 percent grade, in some cases extending two stories above the road.

Although commission member Dick Curtis said such residences would obstruct scenic views to the south, Ward said the intent was to build homes that create a community feeling by facing the street -- --a response, he said, to the city's plan for redeveloping the ski base area and "revitalizing" Mount Werner Circle.

"There's no benefit for us," Ward said, citing high costs of building homes on a steep incline. "We were trying to do the right thing."

Tom Leeson, director of the city's planning department ---- which supported the development plan and the preliminary plat with conditions ---- agreed that moving the residences away from the road would lessen the community atmosphere.

"If you push this development down the hillside, you will have a very different development and a very different feeling along Mount Werner (Circle)," he said.

Another difficulty with the two parcels, commission members said, was the unspecified height of the buildings. The development plan presented Thursday lists building height for homes along Mount Werner Circle as "to be determined." That is too uncertain for a construction plan that could span 10 years, Stopher said.

Ward and Pearson said they will address the recommendations of commission members.

"I don't have a problem being tabled," Ward told the commission. "We want what you want."

If plans are approved July 6, the Steamboat Springs City Council will discuss Wildhorse Meadows on July 18 and could act on the proposal July 25.

"If we stay on schedule, we'll be prepared to break ground in August," Pearson said.

-- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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