CPC delay

The site plan is shown for the proposed Society Turn development. The San Miguel County Planning Commission met Thursday, kicking off the five-step review process, which began with presentation of the planned unit development sketch plan for the site, as well as consideration of an amendment to the county Land Use Code that, if approved, would allow for multiple uses on the 20-acre parcel. No decision was made as the board continued further discussion until its March meeting. (Courtesy image)

The San Miguel County Planning Commission (CPC), on Thursday, citing the need for more time and information, continued discussion on a large new development proposal located near the Society Turn intersection to its March meeting. The CPC, in this, the first of five steps of the review process, will then render a decision on whether to recommend the development’s sketch plan to the Board of County Commissioners. 

Also continued to March’s meeting will be a companion decision on whether to approve an amendment to the county Land Use Code (LUC) — Mixed Use Development (MXD) — that would allow for multiple uses on the approximately 20-acre parcel west of Telluride.

At the outset of the CPC’s initial review, which included lengthy and detailed staff and developer presentations, as well as wide-ranging public comment, county planning director, Kaye Simonson, reminded the board that this first step of five was intended to be a broader view.

“We’re at sketch plan,” she said. “We’re looking at the big picture.”

Should the CPC recommend approval for the Society Turn planned unit development  (PUD) — and then the BOCC, in turn, gives it the nod — each of the project’s numerous components would come under further scrutiny   under the lens of the county’s LUC and development guidelines. Thursday, the basic elements of the sketch plan were discussed.

The project’s “carrots” as the Lawson Hill HOA board referred to them in public comment, are the dedications of land within the roughly triangular-shaped parcel to the Telluride Hospital District for an expanded medical care facility, and a portion of land for the Telluride Wastewater Treatment Plant for its planned expansion. The intention of the developer — Genesee Properties out of Wyoming — is to phase the work in over time, beginning with the development of the med center parcel on the western end of the site. Genesee’s spokesperson, local attorney Tom Kennedy, told the commission that his client sought assurances for “guaranteed” development rights that would make the “economically viable.”

“Genesee can’t do anything with the property for 10 years,” Kennedy said. “They want to make sure they can actually develop.”

The phasing of each development site within the parcel is linked to the availability of water and sewage.

“This is to ensure the Town of Telluride has sewer service capacity for the project,” Simonson write in her memo to the CPC. “Additionally, market demand will dictate exactly what uses are built. The economic analysis upon which the plan is based looked at the regional need for office, retail, flex and lodging uses through 2040. The applicant, upon recording the Final Plat, Subdivision Improvements Agreement, and Development Agreement, would convey the Medical Center parcel to the Telluride Hospital District; convey the wastewater treatment plant parcel to the Town, and the portion of the open space parcel south of the river to the County.” 

Chris Touchette with CCY Architects of Basalt is part of the team involved with the project. He explained the phasing that the developers envision.

“This is slow growth that hinges on water and wastewater availability,” Touchette said.

Phase I will include establishment of open space and construction of the med center, which includes ancillary medical facilities such as those that would house private practices. The site’s infrastructure, such as roads and access off Highway 145 would also commence. Phase II, which Touchette said is 10-18 years out, would include landscaping, including planting along the north portion of the parcel that parallels Highway145 that would serve as a buffer zone. 

Furthest down the road, Phase III is seen as build-out for the remaining planning areas with the site, a plan that hinges on Genesee’s request that they are granted a variance on vesting rights. Current state law is that vesting rights last for three years from the time of final approval. Because the development plan is phased, and offers all the public benefits up front, Genesee is requesting an extension of vesting rights to 25 years, thereby locking in the PUD development rights ultimately granted.

Of the nearly 20 acres, 38 percent is proposed for private development. The new med center would occupy 13 percent and the wastewater treatment plant dedication would be 8 percent. Open space is slated for 10 percent, while the county would receive dedications of land totalling 19 percent of the site.

Touchette said that once fully developed, the Society Turn parcel would be “half as dense as downtown Telluride and double the density of Lawson Hill.” The project, all told, extends about “five city blocks long.”

Within the private development portion, lodging would comprise 34 percent  (150 rooms are being proposed as ideal), 20 percent residential, which would be all affordable housing, and 15 percent commercial. The commercial, Touchette said, would include flex space (also called makers space) and would not be intended for destination traffic, but more to serve the employees and residents of development.

“It’s a mix of uses we’d like to see,” he said.

The development includes plans for 87 units of affordable housing. There will eventually be a homeowners association established that will oversee covenants and design guidelines.

Public comment centered in two, primary arenas  — those who urged speedy approval based on the community’s need for expanded medical facilities, and the project’s immediate neighbors in the Last Dollar subdivision whose concerns focused on traffic issues, light and noise.

One commenter, Jake Burns, offered sharp criticism calling the offer of the hospital and other land dedications “disingenuous.”

“This is not in the interests of locals,” Burns said further calling the plans “characterless dreck.”

Telluride Regional Medical Center representatives implored those in attendance to approve the sketch plan. Dr. Diana Koelliker said approval would be “for the greater good” and that “those who speak against this will benefit from it.”

TMC’s Dr. Sharon Grundy said years of thwarted plans for new sites and cramped quarters at the med center’s facility at South Townsend Avenue called for a  “problem-solving” approach and she struck a tone of urgency.

“This is it,” Grundy said.

After more than five hours and still not having touched on the proposed amendment to the LUC, CPC members were unwilling to vote without having more information provided from both county planning staff and the applicant. The two agenda items were continued by unanimous vote to the March 11 meeting.

To view the application, go to societyturn.info.