P&Z will keep fighting El Jebel hotel
Three veterans of the midvalley planning commission say they believe the Eagle County commissioners erred by overturning their advisory vote against a proposed hotel in El Jebel.The commissioners granted first-round approval Monday for a project called Kodiak Park, which initially included a controversial proposal for an 80-room, 80,000-square-foot hotel.After granting the first of three necessary approvals by a 3-0 vote, commissioners James Johnson and Tom Stone explained that they felt the developers’ willingness to scale down the hotel to 50 rooms would address the concerns of the Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission.But when contacted after the meeting, commission members said they found the hotel objectionable at any size.”There was not a discussion about scaling down the hotel,” said P&Z member Bonnie Kowar. “Four of us were adamant that there should not be a hotel, period.”She added that she was “disappointed” that the county commissioners didn’t place more weight on comments of the planning commission and midvalley citizens.Elected officials are under no obligation to follow advisory votes of their appointed planning commissions, but it often makes for awkward politics when the advice is ignored on major issues.That situation is probably magnified on issues involving the Roaring Fork Valley sliver of Eagle County. Some midvalley residents claim the county government, based more than 50 miles away, is often unresponsive to their desires. A handful of residents have even launched an effort to secede from Eagle County and join Pitkin County.Eagle County officials insist they are responsive to their constituents in the Roaring Fork Valley.P&Z chairman Gary Ross said his board can repeat its concerns about the Kodiak Park hotel in the second round of the approval process. The application will go back before the planning commission for review of revisions and additional details.”We can send the message again,” said Ross, who didn’t vote on Kodiak Park because he had missed one of a series of meetings. Although he didn’t vote, he listened to and participated in deliberations on the hotel when the vote was taken.”I have a real difficult time believing we need a hotel of any size in El Jebel,” Ross said.Kodiak Park, proposed by Ace and Jennifer Lane, surrounds the private water ski lake across Highway 82 from the El Jebel City Market. The P&Z actually voted 4-1 to support the project, with the condition that no hotel be allowed on the site.Board members said they didn’t think a large hotel would fit the character of the neighborhood and that it would be too large for its proposed site between the highway and lake. Members also expressed concerns about the traffic it would generate.The Eagle County commissioners approved the project without even discussing the hotel at their meeting Monday. Glenn Rappaport, the owners’ architect, lobbied for the hotel by noting it had been pared down from 80 units to 60. A planning staff memo noted that the developers’ representatives had said the rooms would be pared down to 50. That 10-room discrepancy was never clarified.P&Z chairman Ross said the county commissioners shouldn’t have presumed the pared-down hotel would be acceptable to the board. The new size represented a significant change in the application – and one that should have gone back to the P&Z for review, he said.”My opinion is, if they wanted to downsize the hotel, they should have come back to us,” said Ross.Planning commission board member Bob Schultz said the hotel would have still been opposed.”I don’t think [the size] would have made any difference to the P&Z,” he said. “I think the concern that the P&Z expressed is that two hotels had already been approved in the El Jebel area. It was hard to justify one, let alone three.”Eagle County has approved a hotel on the Blue Ridge property, adjacent to Kodiak Park, although the property owners are now trying to get their approvals changed.The town of Basalt is also contemplating a hotel on the Sopris Meadows property, across Highway 82 from the water ski lake.Schultz said he doesn’t believe three hotels will be built in that same general neighborhood, even if the approvals stand.”My guess is the marketplace will take care of the hotel,” he said of Kodiak Park. “It’s just a goofy idea.”
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