Plans for a hotel on Main Street in Gunnison were approved by Planning and Zoning Commission last week despite opposition from surrounding residents who have voiced concerns over design standards they say are unmet.
“The size of the proposed hotel is out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood and its design is incompatible with the historic feel of this section of town,” a group of concerned residents stated in a letter to the editor.
According to the conditionaluse application submitted in recent weeks the hotel — proposed on the vacant property at 404 N. Main Street — will include four-stories containing 18 guest rooms, a lobby, bar, a multi-purpose room as well as a roof terrace.
Two waivers are currently under consideration by city staff — for a reduction in required parking spaces and landscaping — after which the project’s proponents can apply for a building permit.
The proposal marks the first project to take advantage of recent changes within the Land Development Code (LDC) — namely within the B-1 zone.
Elizabeth and Don Smith attended Planning and Zoning Commission meetings in recent months to discuss potential plans for the hotel. The Smiths favored changes under consideration for the LDC — including an allowance for an increase in building height — as the primary driver behind their envisioned project.
The changes ultimately approved allow for bed and breakfasts, hostels, hotels or motels to be approved as a conditional use in the Central Business District and B-1 zones.
However, the proposed change to allowed height of buildings — from 35 to 50 feet in the B-1 zone — was met with a petition from nearby residents who feared the allowance could adversely impact the neighborhood.
Following feedback from the community, City Council remanded height standards back to Planning and Zoning Commission with city leaders eventually reaching a consensus. A height of 50 feet was allowed upon conditional use, so long as a set of specific design standards are met.
While the hotel’s height continues to be the biggest concern, the letter from area residents also outlines a slew of design standards which they view as not being met in accordance with code.
“There are many required standards that are not being met and these should not be waived or overlooked,” the letter stated. “That is the purpose of having standards set in the first place.”
The hotel’s height will be 35 feet tall from the perimeter with an additional 15-foot top floor located in the center of the building. According to the application, the top floor, reaching 50 feet, would not be visible from the street and most adjacent properties.
However, the neighbors’ letter indicates that the height of the building exceeds the LDC’s provisions due to a building element referred to as a “parapet” — or a small wall surrounding the perimeter of the building, used for both safety and design.
The building application included the parapet as part of the proposed design, extending the building height to 38.5 feet from the perimeter — 3.5 feet higher than the height limit, according to the letter.
Community Development Director Anton Sinkewich indicated early this week that the parapet itself is not accounted for when calculating a building’s total height. However, he added late Tuesday that the project’s architect is working to preserve the 35-foot restriction even with the parapet.
Yet, Sinkewich said he favors granting the two waivers requested for the project.
Twenty-one on-site spaces are required, but the application outlines 17 on-site spaces. Sinkewich said he was willing to grant the waiver, given the availability of three additional parking spaces along Main Street itself.
“If this project were 500 feet to the south, it would be exempt to parking and they could be building this project with zero parking spaces,” added Sinkewich. “We feel that the parking they are providing will be sufficient for the business.”
Landscaping is another element of design which has come under fire from neighbors, who contend that proposed “pavers” — or small stepping stones surrounded by turf — shouldn't qualify as “landscaping.”
While Sinkewich did acknowledge that landscaping requirements are an interpretative element of city code, he alongside city staff are poised to waive the requirement which states 25 percent of the property must be landscaped.
Still, in spite of opposition to the overall design and location of the hotel, Sinkewich said the changes to zoning requirements have been in the works for years in an effort to bring more activity downtown and allow for greater density within city limits.
“In the last decade, residents have stated an interest in increased density and available activities,” said Sinkewich. “If there’s an area more appropriate than Main Street, I don’t know what (it) is.”
(Kate Gienapp can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org .)