Developer blasts Silverthorne town council after Hudson Park Lofts project falls through
September 20, 2018
The expected developer of the former Hudson Auto Source property in Silverthorne has abandoned the project after an informal work session with Silverthorne Town Council was less than cordial, he said.
Developer Steve McKeever, who lives in Edwards, and his partners at Resort Concepts have worked with dozens of governmental bodies over the course of their careers, but this is the first time he's felt like one of them tried to cast him as "a greedy developer."
Last week's work session over the Hudson Park Lofts was "just condescending and not helpful," McKeever offered, saying that town council "ridiculed" the development team after they put significant time and money into crafting a plan they thought would be a good starting point.
With that, McKeever is sure they won't be pursuing the project any further.
"We're just not those guys," he said. "We're done. Yes, sir … It was a life-is-too-short decision to try to fight upstream against that mentality."
Work sessions are optional, nonbinding meetings that Silverthorne offers developers as an opportunity to let the town feel out a project and offer feedback before more formal proceedings can take place. In this instance, the amount of commercial space, or lack thereof, was a major issue.
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Detailed in a memo from assistant town manager Mark Leidal to town council, developers of the Hudson Park Lofts were seeking to raise the maximum allowable density from 16 residential units per acre to 37 units an acre on the 3.85-acre parcel between Fourth and Fifth streets, directly west of the Blue River Parkway, in downtown Silverthorne.
Altogether, initial plans detailed 142 residential units across six three- and four-story buildings with 7,400 square feet of commercial storefronts in two buildings fronting the highway.
An additional 5,950 square feet of live-work space for artists would line the buildings along Adams Avenue, giving the project a combined total of 13,350 square feet of commercial space.
Other variances developers could have sought would have been to exceed the town's limits on building heights and parking requirements, in addition to allowing first-floor residences in the town core. Residential units are currently allowed in Silverthorne's downtown core, but only as "accessory uses in mixed-use structures" and not on the ground floor, per town code.
"Keep in mind this was a work session, and we were expecting suggestions," McKeever said. "All they did was tell us how bad our plan was and that we shouldn't have brought it in front of the town. We really left the meeting scratching our heads, not knowing what to think about it."
No one disputes town officials demanded the developers add more commercial space into their plans during the work session. However, McKeever said he doesn't believe a market exists to support so much commercial and that the project council wants him to do simply isn't feasible.
"They wanted tons of commercial," he said, claiming that town officials have acknowledged to him commercial sites are going unfilled in Silverthorne and even offered tax incentives to help make the project work as the town wanted it.
McKeever said the development team didn't want to use tax incentives because they think the development "should work without taxpayers' money." He also suggested the town's push for more commercial space stems from Silverthorne's heavy reliance on sales taxes, which are its primary source of funding.
That's not how town staff or council members described the matter, though. With the town in good financial health, Councilman Kevin McDonald said, "the taxes themselves were not really an issue."
Responding to McKeever's accusations that council members, specifically McDonald, painted the developers as "greedy," McDonald said he doesn't remember saying that, only expressing his extreme disappointment with the preliminary plan McKeever presented.
"We wanted commercial on the first floor, but they didn't want to do that," McDonald said, explaining that requirement is clearly spelled out in the town's comprehensive master plan, approved in May 2014, and not some underhanded scheme to grow tax revenue.
Town council members might have been willing to approve a small variance for the project, McDonald added, but they weren't about to increase the allowable density, agree to building heights drastically exceeding limitations and forgo the mandate all buildings in the town core must come with first-floor commercial.
McDonald and Leidal both maintained the push for more commercial space was directly from the comprehensive plan, which promotes first-floor retail, office space, restaurants and other commercial uses across the town core.
The development team had been operating under contract to buy the land after the Hudson Auto Source car dealership closed in May. With the developers abandoning the project, that sale won't go though, McKeever said.
It seems probable the property would be put back on the market, but efforts to reach the owner of the now-closed dealership for comment were unsuccessful on Thursday.