Proposal Sparks Controversy at Tuesday’s Public Work Session
TELLURIDE –Telluride Planning and Building Director Michelle Haynes told the Telluride Town Council on Tuesday that a proposed hotel on a vacant parcel on Colorado Ave. is seeking an unprecedented number of zoning variances.
Chris Hamm, CEO of Axys Group based in Austin, Tex., told council that he envisions the Hotel San Miguel consisting of two levels of traditional hotel rooms, several multi-family units, a restaurant and bar, an outdoor pool, a conference facility and a bowling alley. To accommodate hotel features, Hamm said he would be seeking variances for increased height, allowable floor area rations, the length of the façade, and proximity to the River Trail and wetlands.
“In my view, seeking a variance on a wetland is a significant because we have regulations on wetlands not just for aesthetic but also protection of our natural environment,” Haynes added, alluding to the difficulty of applying to build so close to the protected ecosystem.
In the way of public benefits, Hamm said he would build 110 underground parking spaces and an additional off-site parking lot on the town-owned Youth Link property.
The provision of more than the required amount of parking could support the Telluride Science Research Center, which has been proposed for the Youth Link parcel, and the adjacent Telluride Marshal’s Department, along with the general public. And because the hotel would be built in such close proximity to the River Trail, Hamm said his hotel would invest in trail improvement efforts.
Catering to the town’s environmental concerns, Hamm said the hotel would make electric cars available to guests and the hotel would draw energy from geothermal energy sources. The hotel’s conference facilities would be available to local non-profit organizations to use for hosting events. Public restrooms would be available within the hotel, which is close to Telluride Town Park.
But perhaps the biggest public benefit, Hamm said, would be the provision of 65 traditional hotel rooms (no kitchen and not individually-owned). Councilmember Brian Werner agreed that “many people in this town want more hotbeds,” but he noted that there is often resistance to zoning variance requests that the town’s Land Use Code allows, but which are often denied. “If we want to see increased tourism numbers we might want to consider revisiting some of our codes,” Werner said.
Expressing the alternative view that variances should be viewed with caution, Councilmember Chris Myers responded to Hamm’s suggestion that the land parcel he is seeking to develop is an opportunity for making a successful business.
“Telluride is a community, not an investment,” Myers said, adding that construction of a hotel larger than the surrounding structures could degrade the town’s architectural integrity and that introducing an additional, offsite parking lot would further complicate the application process. Myers acknowledged that the Willow Street parking lot has long been an attractive parcel to many developers and investors and that he encouraged the construction of the hotel, but said that Hamm will have to seek variances from the Telluride Planning and Zoning and Historic and Architectural Review commissions, and eventually from Town Council.
Councilmember Bob Saunders echoed many of Myers’ points, adding, “I think the town’s Land Use Code protects the town from people who are looking to make a quick buck.” He recalled that previous hotel applications have failed precisely for asking for too much in the way of variances.
“I’m just worried that a hotel this large could hurt the traditional image of Telluride,” Saunders said.
The Planning and Zoning and the Historic and Architectural Review commissions are holding a joint work session this Thursday at 6:10 p.m. Commission members will meet at the Willow Parking Lot for a site tour and then conduct a meeting at Rebekah Hall.