Society Turn parcel

The Society Turn parcel is being eyed for development, but first the Telluride Regional Master Plan must be amended to accommodate owner Genesee Properties’ visions for the parcel. (Courtesy image)

Members of the San Miguel County Planning Commission (CPC) will consider a proposed amendment to the Telluride Regional Area Master Plan Wednesday that would pave the way to development of a 20-acre parcel located on the southwest corner of the Society Turn roundabout. The parcel borders Highway 145 on the north and east sides, and is where the wastewater treatment plant is located.

The CPC will conduct a site walk prior to their Wednesday meeting. The commission will reconvene in the second floor county meeting room in the Miramonte Building at approximately 9: 30 a.m.

The master plan is an advisory document that was adopted in 1989 and offers guidelines for how the area could be developed in the future. The Society Turn property, which is owned by Genesee Properties, has proposed to the county that the land be redesignated as mixed use, including public facilities/uses, medical, housing, commercial and hospitality. The bulk of the property is currently designated as open space/rec/parks with the areas around the river designated as wetlands/rivers/open space. The land around the wastewater treatment plant is designated utility/light industrial and represents a small portion of the Genesee property.

If the planning commission approves the amendment to the master plan, Genesee, represented by local attorney Tom Kennedy, could then move forward with specific plans to present to the county that would outline the uses of the property envisioned by its owners. Those conceptual plans include 4.1 acres set aside for public benefit with 1.5 acres dedicated to wastewater treatment plant expansion, and approximately 2.6 acres for the medical center or affordable housing. Given that the applicant considers just 14 of the 20 acres developable, that would leave the remaining 10 acres for commercial, hospitality and housing.

Notice of the proposed master plan amendment was sent to myriad organizations and individuals, including the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village, county departments, the Telluride Fire Protection District, San Miguel Power Association, Telluride Regional Medical Center, the Nature Conservancy and others. As required, it was also legally noticed in the paper of record.

Telluride officials enumerated in its memo to county planning staff a list of discussions the town hoped would occur as the amendment is contemplated. Among them was a concern that while officials believed the current infrastructure could support the water and sewer needs of a medical center, additional development should not take place until after the expansion of the wastewater treatment plant.

Also, the town asked the county to ensure “considerable public benefit should be provided in return,” given what the town said was a “considerable change” to current master plan designations. Public benefits, the town wrote, should include requirements for additional affordable housing on top of the land for the wastewater treatment plant expansion and a med center. The town’s memo also questioned whether proposed free market housing would be the “highest and best use of the site.”

County staff recommended in the memo to the CPC that the applicant limit the property to affordable housing and that “the applicant has verbally agreed.”

The Last Dollar Homeowners’ Association also weighed in with its concerns, primarily that the amendment, if approved, would result in high-intensity uses that  “would result in serious effects on the surrounding area with little, if any public benefit … ” While the Last Dollar HOA did express support for the wastewater treatment plant expansion and for a portion of the property’s dedication to the med center, it said potential impacts such as larger buildings, light pollution, traffic congestion and environmental impacts could arise as a result of any development.

Other uses as envisioned by Genesee include a hospitality component; a couple of lodging businesses within the development that would be targeting a “family friendly” demographic and that would be a “moderately priced product.”

Genesee also proposes to incorporate transit needs, hiking and biking trails and commercial uses such as retail, eating/drinking and office space.

The CPC has a number of options. The board may require more information and further evaluation and move to continue the discussion to a subsequent meeting.

County staff also recommends that should the board approve the proposed amendment that several conditions be met, among them: eliminating free market housing; keeping commercial uses similar in size to those in Lawson Hill and Telluride; eliminating any industrial uses on the parcel; requiring mitigation should the scenic foreground be reduced from its required 200-foot setback; keeping current open space and wetlands designations intact; and that the developer must enter into an agreement with the Town of Telluride for water and sewer services.