Silverthorne town council rejects design for downtown apartments
December 17, 2017
The developer of a proposed apartment complex along the Blue River in Silverthorne will revise his designs after elected leaders all but rejected them last week, saying the blueprint was simply too much for such a prominent downtown location.
The private land at 300 Blue River Parkway currently houses two businesses, Uncle John's Farm Stand and the Higgles Ice Cream Food Truck, in addition to parking for the Silverthorne Town Center and a picnic area.
It's prime Summit County real estate, and not lost on Silverthorne Town Council was the proposed three-story, seven-unit apartment complex — with rooftop patios 35 feet above ground level — which would be one of the first structures welcoming people into the downtown area.
"I think this thing is just totally outside the human scale that we prescribed and the message that we try to send in our design standards," Councilman Kevin McDonald said as council weighed the project during a regular meeting Wednesday. "To have someone walking by this thing and have them looking straight up at a 30- or 40-foot wall is just completely out of character for Silverthorne."
Per town code, apartments have been identified as a "use by right" within the downtown district. The developer, Tom Ethington, said he tried to adhere to the town's vision in proposing the seven-unit complex. However, in trying to live up to the letter of the town's development code, elected officials said they felt like he missed the spirit of what they're trying to do in the downtown area.
During public comments, five people spoke out against the proposed apartments, expressing their concerns over everything from parking and snow removal to rental agreements and the building's overall footprint.
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"I just think there's a lot of work to be done here," said one of them, Eddie O'Brien, who's also a longtime member of the town's Economic Development Advisory Committee. "I'm not the kind of guy to say, 'You shouldn't be building (apartments) in this area. But boy, the sensitivity to all the work that we've done over the last 14 years to get this core area set — and this is a beautiful location — this doesn't fit."
The developer tried to answer the citizens and council's concerns as best he could.
In describing the tenants he'd target, he told them to look no further than who's already living at the Silverthorne Town Center, a retail hub next door to the proposed apartment complex with nine existing apartments.
Ethington's company owns both properties, and council was highly complimentary with what he's done so far to develop the center.
But the footprint was too deep, the space too tight, for the developer's proposal, council said.
Per designs, the new apartments would have gone up above first-floor garages. Council wondered if that might have pushed the complex up too high for the location adjacent the retail center, even though the highest point would be five-eights of an inch under the maximum allowable height of 45 feet for pitched roofs.
The 35-foot rooftop patios also posed safety concerns. The developer said they'd likely ban over-the-balcony snow removal in the renters' lease agreements — that the patios would be summertime amenities — but some people wondered if that would be enough.
"I've lived up here for a long time, and sometimes you want to be outside in the wintertime," McDonald said, adding "you don't want 20-pound heaves coming right at you" when you're standing below.
Hearing council's concerns, Ethington was given a handful of options, including pushing forward with the doomed proposal or asking for a continuance, which would allow him to come back at a later date with a revised design that council might be more willing to approve.
Ethington sought the continuance. Over the phone Sunday, he said he intends get with his architect to revise the plans and hopefully return with something more closely tailored to the town's desires in January.
Ethington's decision to seek the continuance followed council's unanimous approval of another proposed preliminary site plan for a three-story boutique hotel off Rainbow Drive, across the river from the proposed apartment complex.
The Pad, as it's being called, would offer hostel-style bed rentals in addition to other accommodations, and go up where the now-vacant Robinson Dairy building sits. Council green-lighted the hotel with 15 conditions that developers must remedy before obtaining final site-plan approval.