Sunday, August 25, 2019

Proposed Nordic Inn future remodel unclear

Planning Commission still weeding through zoning and design questions

By Kendra Walker

The Mt. Crested Butte Planning Commission continued discussion last week about the planned unit development (PUD) proposal that would significantly expand the Nordic Inn. Under the most recent draft of the PUD, the proposed hotel would have 148 rooms, a two-level, 220-space underground parking garage, a restaurant, a conference area, and a pool and spa. Building heights of the new structure across two lot lines would be 46 feet (four stories) and 56 feet (six stories).

After a public hearing on the proposal held July 17, developer Pearls Management, LLC made additional adjustments based on public and Planning Commission feedback. Attorney Aaron Huckstep, representing Pearls Management, and Gary Hartman, principal at Sunlit Architecture, presented the latest version to the Planning Commission on August 7.

Addressing concerns received over the past several weeks, Huckstep prefaced, “There are some, what I would consider, inflammatory remarks, in my opinion, in some of those letters and comments from neighbors and I totally get that they are concerned about the project and I just hope we can all keep it civil. My office is always open if anybody has any concerns of anything relating to the applicant or the ownership, structure, etc. You’re welcome to give me a call.”

Among the letters received by the town was one that delved into members of the ownership group, and what could be characterized as detailing alleged actions that resulted in Securities and Exchange Commission penalties. The Planning Commission did not address any of the allegations in that letter.

Updates since July 17

One of the latest revisions to the PUD includes relocating the setback along the Evergreen Condos property line to give those residents more space. “…We pulled our entire landscape plan back between five and eight feet so that we stay on the infrastructure line,” said Hartman. “It didn’t do a lot of detriment to what we had planned for the pool and hot tub area so we felt that could be accommodated relatively easily.”

Hartman explained that he went through the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) guidelines, as recommended by the Planning Commission, and changed the roof slopes to comply with what is required.

Notes have also been added into the PUD to address noise mitigation for the outdoor bar area during the design review process. “We understand it is a concern and something we want to provide mitigation for,” said Hartman.

Another change included lowering the roofs over the elevator and stair cores. “We feel that the building transition between the existing Nordic Inn structure and the new structure has much more a feeling of stair steps to blend those structures together,” Hartman noted.

Additionally, a series of landscape roofs and green roofs have been added over the hotel entrance and conference area in an effort to help soften the views of anyone looking down onto the structure from the north end.

Lots of discussion to come

One concern raised from previous public comment addressed the geotechnical investigation of the site and whether the proposed lots would run into significant water issues upon development.

“There were concerns related to geotech,” said Huckstep. “We had a discussion with [engineering consultant] CTL Thompson… They indicated they have done an immense amount of work in the area. They indicated that when we are ready for them to do the work, they are ready to come on-site. We didn’t hear any significant reservations with respect to the project.”

Commissioner Cynthia Peatross also requested that the Planning Commission receive the soils report prior to the submittal for design review. Mt Crested Butte community development director Carlos Velado responded, “When we do come to the Planning Commission for review, we don’t typically include the soils report, but if you wanted that to be incorporated we could certainly do that. And I think it might be more relevant in this case than maybe with your typical single-family home.”

“I would like to see it based on [public] comments and the type of construction we’re looking at,” replied Peatross.

Commissioners also addressed concerns about how the 220-space parking garage would be divided between hotel and public parking. Huckstep noted that based on his calculations of the number of spaces and occupancy predictions, available public parking spaces would average between 75 and 100 spaces.

“My heartburn comes that when the hotel is going to be really busy is also when the resort in general is going to be really busy,” said commissioner Reed Meredith. “Let’s say it’s Presidents’ Weekend, everything is going to be full. That’s exactly the scenario that caused the town to start the negotiation of ‘We need a parking lot.’ I think that parking management agreement is an integral part of this whole deal and needs to be negotiated and clearly there needs to be some limit to the number of vehicles that hotel guests can bring.”

“I agree with your concern but part of our parking problem is because so much of it is free and this is not going to be free parking,” said commissioner Sara Morgan. “It’s going to force people to park at the Four-Way Stop and take the bus, people at Crested Butte South to carpool on these peak times. The Lodge at Mountaineer Square is $20 a day and I think this would be similarly priced.”

Commissioner Lisa Lenander added, “With Vail buying the resort we are getting more day-trippers and they’re driving up, they’re skiing, they’re driving home. We’re going to get an influx of skiers, we already have, but I can see that growth coming.”

Huckstep suggested the parking agreement be negotiated in advance and that they could explore options such as vehicle number limitations on guests and mandatory valet parking during peak times.

Design issues

While still in the zoning phase of the plan, the Planning Commission stressed the importance of meeting DDA design guidelines, strongly hinting that the current PUD would not meet those requirements later down the road.

“I think we’re going to have a relatively uncomfortable conversation about size when we get into the DDA design highlights,” said commission chair Dusty Demerson. “I think we’re a long way off architecturally in what the DDA envisions for the base area. That’s just my opinion. The Scandinavian modern thing, I don’t think fits in with the current architecture.”

“I think we’ll be prepared to discuss that,” replied Hartman.

“I think that’s a better discussion to have at PUD than at design review,” said Velado. “I would agree with Dusty’s sentiment that it would be a shame, to put it lightly, to get through a PUD process with the conceptual building to this level of detail in place that you ultimately cannot approve at design review because it doesn’t meet the DDA guidelines. So from my point of view it only makes sense to judge it against DDA guidelines at this stage so we’re not running into major roadblocks at design review.”

The Planning Commission agreed to look at how the Downtown Development Authority guidelines align with the revised design at the next meeting on August 21.

“We want to see what the hot topics are and what we have to adjust, and we’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” said Hartman.

“I think it’s extremely important to the neighborhood as well,” concluded Demerson.

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