TELLURIDE – After nearly 10 hours of presentations, discussion and deliberations on Wednesday at a quasi-judicial call-up hearing on a development application to expand a historic main street building, six members of the Telluride Town Council, acting as the Historic and Architectural Review Commission, were unable decide the fate of the so-called Steaming Bean project.
Council continued the hearing to Friday, June 15, with hopes that compromise can be brought into the process.
The Town Council call-up, requested by councilmembers Chris Myers and Bob Saunders, came after a 2-1 HARC approval of the Steaming Bean project last January. The project, which is being proposed by 221 Colorado, LLC, aims to restore the front façade of the historic building at 221 Colorado Avenue, while adding a residential addition to the rear of the building. Wednesday’s hearing followed an equally contentious hearing put forth by the applicant on May 15 challenging Myers’ and Saunders’ ability to hear the application without bias.
In essence, the six members of council (Councilmember Brian Werner is recused because of a conflict of interest) could have ultimately gone in any of three directions on Wednesday: Affirm the previous HARC approval, deny the project’s application or remand the project, with conditions, to HARC for another review. Mayor Stu Fraser opened up council deliberations urging council to make a decision rather than remanding it to HARC because “it would set the same situation again.”
But as the clocked ticked past 9 p.m., council found itself deadlocked.
Myers made a motion for the project to be remanded to HARC that was seconded by Saunders, but the motion died when the two councilmembers couldn’t agree on a growing list of conditions the remand would include. Nor could Councilmember Thom Carnevale, who said he was amenable to a remand, agree to the conditions attached the remand motion, and it eventually lost in a vote.
Myers said that a remand was the only way he could see a “win-win” emerging from the call-up.
“Do we say no or do we say we can come up with a better project?” Myers asked, before making his motion. “To me it’s very simple. Remand this back to HARC so the entire product can be preserved in accordance with RE 3 [Standards for Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings], with the condition that the building be set further back to the ally.”
With that motion dead, council continued to deliberate, with Myers continuously trying to convince other members of council that an affirmation of the HARC approval will be a detriment to the “social fabric of this town.”
Fraser, and councilmembers Ann Brady and Kristen Permakoff, all spoke out in favor of affirming the HARC approval.
“I feel that the applicant made an excellent presentation,” Brady said. “I think they have made a great deal of concessions. I truly admire the people that are so committed to our Historic District but I have to place my vote with an acceptance of this.”
“I feel like after reading all of these books, there was a lengthy and due process that was followed through,” Permakoff said. “I feel like part of my job is to support the people who had the experience and knowledge on HARC. I feel like the applicant, and I agree with Ann, that there were some major renovations to their plans to accommodate all of these points. The bottom line is I think it went through a lengthy and due process and I agree with HARC.”
Myers, however, was not moved by their arguments.
“Are you, Ann, willing to risk our historic designation by taking off a historic part of the building?” Myers asked Brady. “Will you protect the viewscape…?”
“I appreciate your point of view,” Brady answered. “I have expressed mine.”
A motion was eventually made by Brady to affirm HARC’s approval ,and it was supported by Fraser and Permakoff, but not by Saunders and Myers. The deciding vote came down to Carnevale, who said he was still split and frustrated at the lack of compromise.
“I think this is the reason people get frustrated with government,” Carnevale said. “People are so dogmatic in their views and beliefs, instead of saying let’s try to make it a better situation. I think it’s the responsibility of elected officials to not be so dogmatic in their views and I believe that on both sides of this issue. I am in the middle on this apparently.”
“There has been more than thirty months of compromise,” Fraser responded, speaking of the more than two and a half years the project has been in the HARC review process.
“The whole project seems like a compromise,” Permakoff added.
With that, Carnevale voted against the motion and it died on a 3-3 tie. Eventually, after some discussion, council agreed to continue the hearing to June in hopes that everyone on council and the project developer can come back with new compromise ideas.
For Saunders, an allowance of the project as approved by HARC would set a precedent that would eventually detract from Telluride’s historic character. Any notion, he continued, that this building won’t make a big difference is completely wrong.
“If the attitude is that one building doesn't make a difference, pretty soon we won’t have a historic district anymore,” Saunders said. “If we deny that, we are not doing our jobs as HARC.”
For Myers and Saunders, the biggest point of contention is the rear of the building is or is not a part of the original historic structure, or was a later addition. Both councilmembers took issue with the applicant’s representative, Dirk de Pagter, and his interpretation of historic photos. De Pagter contends that the building was added on over time and subsequently destroyed in the 1914 Cornet Creek flood. After heated discussions over the matter, which included a lot of talk on which way the flood actually went and whether it could destroy a brick wall or not, the two sides agreed to disagree.
And while it was reiterated throughout the hearing that council was only to review the Steaming Bean project that was before them, there was a lot of discussion on what type of impact the proposal would have on the historic nature of the New Sheridan Hotel building, which is neighbor to the Steaming Bean. It became very apparent throughout the hearing that the ownership of the New Sheridan Hotel is not in favor of the project as well.
“This will eat away at the social fabric of the town,” Ray Farnsworth, general manager of the New Sheridan Hotel, said. “This building does not comply [with historic design guidelines] and there is no way it should be approved. If you study it, it is non compliant.”
The sharp division on council was mirrored by members of the public who spoke at the meeting were somewhat divided as well. Tallying an informal count of those who spoke, there were eight members of the public who spoke in favor of the project and 13 who spoke against it.
As Myers noted later in the evening three of those who spoke in favor of the project were related in some way to the applicant. Three others who spoke against the project were affiliated with the New Sheridan Hotel.
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