Silverthorne ready to dance with downtown apartments
Just outside the closed doors of Wednesday’s Silverthorne Town Council meeting, as the elected officials sat in executive session, the developer of a proposed apartment complex made himself available, answering questions and taking suggestions from the public.
As people began to file out, a woman who had been sitting in the audience while the developer got his preliminary site plan approved 4-1 by council earlier in the night tried to put things into context.
She told the developer, Tom Ethington, he was trying to fit too much into a size-two dress. It’s a beautiful dress, the woman said, but she thought he was simply squeezing too much in there. In response, Ethington wanted to know: Exactly what would she put in that dress?
The question codified much of the public criticism that’s gravitated to Ethington’s project, and his answer showed the flip side of the equation for the developer who had just gone before council for a second time to get the OK that escaped him at a Dec. 10 meeting.
The intense scrutiny for the apartment complex, called Residences on the Blue, isn’t exactly surprising — it’s one of the first structures welcoming people to Silverthorne as they come into the downtown area.
Ethington told council he had considered a restaurant on the parcel at 300 Blue River Pkwy., but listed several reasons he decided one wouldn’t work there. Meanwhile, apartments are an expressed “use by right” in the downtown district, where town-approved planning documents describe an effort to create a “critical mass” of density to sustain nearby businesses, entertainment venues and a thriving downtown core.
“We really feel, to maximize this town-core piece, (the development) should be residential, rather than commercial, from a traffic standpoint, from a parking-space standpoint,” the developer said. “This adds town-core living and accessibility, rather than another commercial restaurant that can be added as the town core continues to develop.”
Silverthorne Mayor Bruce Butler suggested Ethington might be “a victim of his own success,” referencing the developer’s work on the Silverthorne Town Center, a retail hub that Ethington also owns next to the Silverthorne Pavilion, performing arts center and the tract of land he hopes to build the apartments on.
During the project’s first council hearing last month, five people blasted the complex, taking on everything from the parking lot to the rooftop patios, and council wasn’t much kinder.
Ethington left the meeting with suggestions on how he might improve the concept and a chance to resubmit his proposal, but not the approval he sought.
With his redesign, Ethington took much of council’s advice. He dialed back the number of units from seven to six, allowing him to further reduce the overall lot coverage, maximize landscaping, create an outdoor community space for the apartments and increase the river-view corridor.
Ethington and his architect also stepped back upper floors, and ditched the rooftop patios for a pitch.
The height of the building was reduced by about a foot. At almost 43.5 feet it falls within the town’s 45-foot maximum for the area, but still remains too tall for some people’s taste. At least one person on Wednesday called it “a wall on the Blue.”
The new designs also include room for recycling, moved the fire control and brought in some new stains and exterior finishes to mimic the colors used on nearby buildings, like the Silverthorne Town Center and performing arts center.
With the new designs, Ethington also brought with him another artist’s rendering superimposed over a real-life picture to show how the complex would look to passers-by on the street, something that council members had asked him to do.
Council gave Ethington credit for his changes on Wednesday. So too did the two people who spoke out at the meeting against the project, but neither was ready to support it at this point.
“I think this is a step in the right direction,” one of the men said before explaining his biggest problem is having a 44-foot building next door to the 28-foot tall Silverthorne Town Center buildings.
“Again, (I’m) remembering or reminding y’all that this is the gateway to our town,” he said, “and I think, as you come into town, to see (43.5 feet) narrowed down to 28 feet is the wrong direction to go. I think what really belongs here is really two stories max, rather than the three stories the applicant keeps trying to present.”
Councilman Bob Kieber was perhaps the most critical of the project, taking issue with its scale, snow storage and parking. He also suggested Ethington might be in violation of his own planned unit development for the Town Center.
“It’s paragraph two, the concept of the PUD zoning,” Kieber said, citing the document. “It says both new residential and business should provide open space on the riverside. Well, I don’t consider parking outdoor open space, and what you’ve done is maximize everything that you can for putting in the apartments.”
With the garages, the apartment complex is fully parked, Ethington told council, but because of how it relates to the Town Center, parking remains one of the biggest issues going forward.
Town code allows for a pitched roof up to 45 feet in the downtown core district, and having a two-car garage below each unit, which Ethington said will be able park SUVs, is largely what pushed the building up to three stories.
In removing some parking spaces tied to the Silverthorne Town Center for the apartment complex, Ethington is seeking a small reduction in the required number of spaces for the center, which is written into town code, provided Ethington can meet the requirements.
Even with the revised plans, Nadalin said the parking situation still gave her “heartburn.” It’s wasn’t quite a pack of Tums, but she found some relief by later amending the motion to approve the developer’s preliminary site plan to ensure he meets all of the town’s requirements for the reduction before obtaining final approval.
It was another tough hearing for the developer, but it started to look like Ethington might have the votes he needed when Councilman Kevin McDonald said he could accept the height of the building.
Council members Derrick Fowler and Tanya Shattuck largely agreed, and with Russ Camp recovering from knee surgery and absent from the meeting, McDonald made the motion after tacking on a couple additional stipulations before obtaining final approval. With her amendment forcing a parking plan, Nadalin also joined the yes votes.
Still opposed, Kieber made it 4-1.
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