planning commission

County planning commissioners, county staff and attorney Tom Kennedy discuss amending the Telluride Regional Area Master Plan during a meeting Wednesday. The amendment would allow development of a 20-acre parcel located near Society Turn. (Photo by Amy M. Peters/Telluride Daily Planet)

A discussion from a March 13 meeting regarding a proposed amendment to the Telluride Regional Area Master Plan (TRAMP) that would allow development of a 20-acre parcel located near Society Turn was continued at Wednesday’s San Miguel County Planning Commission hearing.

Genesee Properties proposed that the parcel be redesignated as mixed use to include public, medical, housing, commercial and hospitality uses.

The Telluride Hospital District recently signed a memo of understanding with Genesee Properties, owner of the parcel, regarding a potential donation of 2.6 acres for development of a new medical facility.

At the meeting, in-coming county planning director Kaye Simonson explained that while TRAMP is an advisory document, which provides a broad framework for growth and development of the area, it is the commission’s authority to make changes to that plan. 

“The planning commission should consider whether the master plan amendment is sufficient in scope to provide guidance for a future development proposal,” Simonson said. “Or whether additional information and evaluation is necessary.”

County Planning Director Mike Rozycki, in his last official meeting prior to retiring May 23, told the Daily Planet that even though changes to TRAMP have occurred before, amending TRAMP is significant because “it allows a property owner to apply for land uses, changes and/or zoning and PUDs  (planned unit development) consistent with the amended master plan.”

Simonson pointed out that discussions around use, mass, impacts, design, employee housing, parking, technical studies, phasing development and infrastructure improvements belong in the PUD and zoning processes.

Tom Kennedy, attorney for Genesee Properties, recommended land uses appropriate for the site with TRAMP goals, standards and policies in mind. 

“We’re proposing a mix of free market and public uses,” Kennedy said. “I realize folks have a lot of ideas about what the uses could be. And there’s a tendency for more public uses and less private uses. In order for this to be something for the property owner to want to continue to pursue, it needs to be a viable project for the landowner.”

Tim Mortzell, consultant from Denver’s Economic & Planning Systems Inc., reviewed the results of a comprehensive study that identified construction of a new hotel as a hospitality benefit.

“Currently, we are contemplating 150 hotel rooms as we have identified a need for mid-priced lodging in the region,” said Mortzell, who phoned into the meeting.

Several people spoke in favor of approving the amendment during public comment.

Richard Betts, chairman of the Telluride Regional Medical Center (TMC) board, pointed out that discussions with Genesee have been going on for three years.

As a special district, TMC is not required by law to provided employee housing.

“But we want to participate in that,” Betts said.

Med center CEO John Gardner said a quarter of TMC employees currently live in employee housing.

“We cannot successfully open a facility without that housing,” he said.  

Local Denise Traylor said the public would be “selling its soul” if the process were allowed to move forward.

“At this stage it should be a negotiation,” Traylor said. “Does there really need to be 3,000 square feet of development there?”

Doug Tueller, resident of and counsel for the Last Dollar HOA, said where TRAMP sets the context for development, commissioners are “setting the field of play,” if they pass the amendment.  

“Please do not overcommit,” he said. “Essentially, you’re looking at doubling the size of Lawson Hill. Make clear in your motion that mitigation impacts are done on site. I would like your motion to address the aspects of TRAMP and not kick it down to the P&Z process. Put protections in place.”

Once public comment closed, commissioner Lee Taylor inquired if rehab or extended care areas are included as potential land use at the TMC site. Simonson responded that such considerations could be added in a revised motion. 

Commission member Josselin Lifton-Zoline expressed her concern that the proposed hotel would drive growth and is thus “antithetical to the preservation of community,” a key TRAMP goal.

“The idea that a company in Denver and local Realtors identified the hotel as a need is not convincing in terms of planning for the community,” Lifton-Zoline added.  

Fellow member Ian Bald agreed, expressing surprise that the hospitality component was included as viable use.

“I see why the hotel is there for economic reasons, but it doesn’t contribute to the existing needs of the community,” Bald said.

Simonson suggested that the commissioners put forth a motion to approve the amendment with three modifications: clarify that the amendment is specific to TRAMP future land use and does not change or amend other stated goals, objectives or mitigation measures in the existing TRAMP; add under Medical Uses extended and rehab care as potential land use on the parcel; and, rather than identifying hospitality uses as most desired for this property, describe as use with consideration for impacts on regional growth and preservation of community.

Commission members unanimously agreed to review the language of the modified amendment by email, and once approved, authorized chairman Lee Taylor to sign the amendment. Should disagreement arise during discussions via email, members agreed to bring the subject back for discussion at the next county planning hearing June 12.