Friday, July 29, 2005

Wildhorse Meadows Gondola should be accessible to public, Steamboat should share it's cost.

I couldn't agree more that the proposed gondola linking Wildhorse Meadows and the base of the ski area should be open to the public. However I don't think that the whole burden should fall on Wildhorse Meadows to provide this amenity to the town. The Ski area and Steamboat as a whole will benefit greatly from the additional charm and conveinence of a gondola that allows the public to park at the Meadows lot and cath a ride up to the base area. Given they plan 375 residences in Wild Horse Meadows, public users will far outweigh homeowners and guests. It will also provide tremendous savings for the ski area by eliminating the need for the shuttle buses that run constantly to and from the Meadows public parking lot.

Let's do the right thing here and add anouther gem to Steamboat's allure.

Selected quotes from the Steamboat Pilot and today:
Steamboat Springs Planning Commissioners said they did not want all the amenities offered in Wildhorse Meadows to be exclusive to its residents and guests. From a proposed gondola to soft-surface trails and employee housing, planning commissioners said they wanted the public to feel welcome in the mainly residential development. Wildhorse Meadows is planned to be built on the 47 acres of open land behind the Steamboat Ski Area's Meadows parking lot and the city's tennis center.

Developer Whitney Ward, who built the nearby Wildhorse Marketplace and is working with the former developers of Vail's Cordillera on the project, is proposing as many as 375 residences. The units would be a mix of condos, townhomes and single-family homes and would be divided into six development pods. The development also would have a country store, restaurant, café, real estate sales office and a recreation center.

The most unique feature of the development is the proposal for a gondola that would take residents and guests from Wildhorse Meadows to Gondola Square at the base of the ski area. The gondola could carry as many as 400 people an hour. "I think there will be a lot of chances for you as a developer to make sure this is not an exclusive neighborhood. Provide for public access as opposed to keeping out the public," Planning Commission Chairwoman Kathi Meyer said. Above all, planning commissioners stressed that the proposed gondola, which would be next to the Meadows parking lot, should be opened to the public. "We try not to be exclusive in this community, and everyone gets along," Planning Commissioner Tracy Barnett said. "If at all possible, work out the public access (to the gondola)."

David Hill, who is part of Ward's development group, said there were discussions with Steamboat Ski Area officials and city officials about opening the gondola to the public. Planning Commissioner Cari Hermacinski suggested that the developers have an even higher density on the land, some of which could be used for employee housing. Other commissioners echoed Hermacinski's request to include employee housing in the plan.

Planner Peter Patten, who has worked on the project, said a key component was creating and enhancing the natural environment. Plans show open space scattered among the residences, a pond and sledding hill next to the private recreation center and creeks near the soft-surfaced trails. Dirt would be brought in to fill the sledding hill and that they would file for water rights on the Yampa River and Burgess Creek to create the water features.

The plans show five phases of development. Hill said the developers do not plan to do vertical building on the property. Instead, the developers intend to develop the master plan with detailed guidelines and then hand the building over to other companies.

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