Possible Nordic Inn changes concern public

Planning Commission to continue PUD discussion August 7

By Kendra Walker

Major alterations have been proposed to the planned unit development (PUD) to expand the Nordic Inn and develop it into a high-end hotel that includes a restaurant, spa and conference area.

The developer, Pearls Management, LLC, submitted an application to the town of Mt. Crested Butte to amend the previous PUD plan that was approved in the fall of 2018. The alteration proposes zoning for a new layout for the hotel building, additional hotel units and underground parking.

Attorney Aaron Huckstep, representing Pearls Management at the Mt. Crested Butte Planning Commission’s July 17 meeting, noted that Pearls “desired to accommodate and address some of the other concerns of the neighbors” from the previous PUD. Gary Hartman, principal at Sunlit Architecture, presented the new proposed plan during the meeting.

Among the alterations, the plan increases the number of rooms in the original PUD, from 120 to 148 units. Nine additional units (4,500 square feet of gross residential floor area) will be required to be deed restricted and included for community housing, such as affordable or employee housing.

The original PUD also consisted of separate hotel structures along with a 140-space surface parking lot. The new plan moves the hotel farther south and proposes a hotel building that crosses the common lot line shared by lots N1-1 and N1-2, with a two-level underground parking garage that will accommodate 220 parking spaces. A portion of the parking will be designated for public parking.

The alterations also propose new heights for the buildings, with 46 feet (six stories) on lot NI-1 and 56 feet (four stories) on NI-2. The building will also include an architectural projection that will extend to a height of 66 feet.

The Mt. Crested Butte community expressed concern about the proposed alterations during public comment of the Planning Commission meeting on July 17. The majority of concerns stemmed from the new building heights and obstruction of surrounding views; parking and traffic overflow; noise; and general expansiveness of the project from the last PUD.

“I think we’re all here with the concern about the impact of quality of life that exists in that area, and I appreciate a lot of the work you’ve done to mitigate the impact of a project of this size,” said Jerry Magnetti, an Evergreen Condo owner. However, he cautioned, “How do you stop the next one? Are we setting a stage for more of these big projects to come in there and squeeze out whatever little open space that we might have?”

Lois Einsiduer, an owner in the Redstone condos, referenced the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) design guidelines, saying, “Each development and building should look and feel like they belong to a particular neighborhood and have a direct relationship to their context… It should express the spirit of Mt. Crested Butte to create quality and consistency of town,” she said. “Does this project fit your DDA standards? This project is architecturally out of place in this community… It’s imposing.”

She continued, “This complex is being inserted in a quiet community, private homes and condominiums. This project will negatively impact the property values of the surrounding community because of noise traffic, density, possibly overflow parking needs and diminished views to property owners. So let’s make sure it’s as minimally impacting as possible.”

In a letter to staff, Bill Eggert, owner of a unit in Evergreen Condos with his wife Elizabeth, wrote, “Our unit—the third floor, northeast corner—is one of the closest units to this project and perhaps most impacted by the construction proposed by Pearls.” He went on to share concerns about a new six-story structure hindering their views, and the closeness of the hotel to their unit negatively impacting their privacy and value of their property. He concluded, “We are strongly opposed to the size and scope of this project and urge the Planning Commission to not approve the expansion and compel Pearls [to] move the project farther away from the Evergreen Condos.”

Sunlit Architecture’s Hartman later clarified some of the confusion around the proposed building heights. “One of the things I misstated on is this elevation is a six-story elevation, and that’s not true because we buried it into the ground,” he said. “The discrepancy that I think is happening between the old and the new is the building used to sit back—it was buried into the hillside because of how far the parking lot was. So when we moved the building forward, our average grade came down in elevation.”

For example, Hartman said, ”It’s six stories off this side where it faces the pool and then we’re two stories buried on the ground.” He clarified, “So it’s not that the roofline got taller or we raised it up. It’s the same height as it was in the original PUD, but because our average grade is based on existing grade, we’re much lower and shallower.”

Lauri Wright, another Redstone condo resident, is concerned about the parking impacts to the surrounding neighborhood, saying, “I’m afraid if people come in with trailers and off-road vehicles and snowmobiles then instead of trying to get down into a covered parking area they may just try to park along the street somewhere. And I don’t want to see that happen.”

Town Manager Joe Fitzpatrick clarified what the town does for those recreational vehicles. “Currently what we do with vehicles like this is we provide a permit to the owner and take a description of what the trailer might be, etc. and they’re allowed to park either in the Snowmass lot or the service lots,” he said. He also noted that recreational vehicles are more likely abundant during the non-snowy months. “We haven’t seen that many snowmobile trailers in the hotel or base area.”

Hartman responded, “We have the ability to bring in an oversized vehicle if it has a roof rack or something. We could get those into that level of the garage. We’ve got about a 16 feet height. What we could do is pull trailers in, anything like that.”

Jayne Palu, an owner in Redstone, brought up a 2007 geotechnical report that was prepared by engineering consultant Buckhorn Geotech. “This is a massive enlargement from the original project when these studies were done,” she said. “I think it would be very irresponsible to build this size of a project without significantly updating and analyzing this project…”

Referencing the report, Palu said, “Two feet to eight feet below this ground, there’s a significant water problem and I don’t see anything in this amended PUD that addresses how we’re going deal with that. When you draw the ground water down, it may induce settlement of the structures around it and impact it. Nowhere in this amended plan does it address this or talk about the impact it will have on the existing homeowners.”

“We will not proceed into design review without a revised geotech report,” Hartman responded later in the meeting.

Mt. Crested Butte community development director Carlos Velado also added how those reports would come later in the process. “There’s a geotechnical report for general site conditions but then there’s also as part of the building permit a geotechnical report that determines and makes the foundation recommendations for the structure, and so the structures have to be designed according to those recommendations.”

While many of the public comments arose from design concerns rather than zoning, Hartman did also address the public concerns about noise and privacy, and noted that more specific design plans would come later once and if zoning is approved. Pearls would look into possibilities for incorporating privacy fences, walls and landscaping to mitigate noise from the proposed outdoor bar and pool areas.

“If approved, Pearls hopes to begin construction in the next couple years” in one phase rather than multiple phases, said Huckstep.

The public hearing was closed, and the Planning Commission will continue discussion on the proposed PUD alterations during their next meeting on August 7. Velado added that any additional public comments should be sent to staff by email. The Planning Commission also recommended that Pearls look over the DDA guidelines again.

“We’ll work with you to obtain a recommendation, or what we hope is a recommendation, for approval,” said Huckstep. “We don’t doubt that there will be conditions. We will then go to the Town Council for their approval and have another public hearing and they will consider the application.”

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