On a 4-2 vote, Salida City Council approved an ordinance allowing construction of the proposed Salida Crossing condominium development on U.S. Highway 50 at the former Town and Country car dealership.
Dan Shore, Harald Kasper, Justin Critelli and Cheryl Brown-Kovacik voted in favor of the ordinance while Mike Bowers and Rusty Granzella voted against it.
The second reading and public hearing of the ordinance had been continued to allow developer Duane Cozart time to respond to council and citizen concerns voiced at previous council meetings and work sessions.
Every council member praised Cozart’s willingness to work with Salida City Council and staff to address concerns about the project.
When Glen Van Nimwegen, Salida community development director, presented the proposed ordinance, he noted changes to the original site plan, including building height reductions from 48 feet to 44.5 feet for two of the development’s three buildings.
The height of the third building, the one closest to Highway 50, is designated as 37 feet, 8 inches. In other words, all three Salida Crossing buildings would exceed the current height limit of 35 feet.
Van Nimwegen said the latest Salida Crossing site plan reduces the height of the first floor and expands the size of units on the top floor in the two taller units, ultimately reducing the number of units in the development to 122.
The revised site plan also includes below-ground parking under the two taller buildings, which expands parking beyond land use code requirements.
Van Nimwegen discussed code requirements that building height not have adverse impacts to views, asserting that those impacts are mitigated by setbacks of 50-70 feet, far more than required by the city building code.
Another impact, shadows cast by the development’s buildings, would affect Lornie Lowry’s property, primarily during the shortest days of the year, when the development would cast shadows on the Lowry shop building.
Salida Crossing developer Duane Cozart pointed out that shading from the proposed development would affect the Lowry property far less than what the current land use code allows – i.e., a 35-foot building with a 5-foot setback from the property line.
He also showed an animated video demonstrating that his proposed development would create less shading for Lowry’s property than if he built according to the current code, due in large part to the increased setbacks.
Van Nimwegen said Fire Chief Doug Bess had assured him that the increased height would not create a safety issue for the Salida Fire Dept. Van Nimwegen completed his report by noting:
• Cozart has committed to deed restrictions on 25 percent of Salida Crossing units for residents earning 70-80 percent of Chaffee County’s average median income.
• Precedents for taller buildings include the St. Clair Hotel, a 51-foot, four-story building in downtown Salida built in the 1800s.
• The site plan includes an underground vault to contain runoff onsite, thereby mitigating standing-water issues with Oak Street near the Highway 50 intersection.
Cozart said he will only market the units locally and that he already has a “huge list of individuals” interested in the units because of their affordability, including close to a dozen business owners who want to buy units to rent to their employees.
He said that monthly payments for deed-restricted units would be approximately $700 per month, including HOA fees.
During the public hearing, concerns focused on building height, additional traffic and affordability.
Ken Brown expressed concerns about additional traffic from Salida Crossing and other nearby developments.
Lornie Lowry said the development will obscure the view of the mountains while driving into town from the east and have adverse impacts to adjacent properties, including her property.
Chaffee Housing Trust Executive Director Reed McCulloch said, instead of growing out, “I think it’s time to grow up. … We definitely need to consider this,” especially given the character of Highway 50 compared to the historic character of downtown.
Diana Smith said her main concern is the height of the development. Paula Lallier echoed Smith’s concerns and worries about setting a precedent for future high-density development.
Ray Kitson said Salida is experiencing a “dire immediate need for affordable housing. … There are probably a hundred homeless people living … across the river. This (development) would provide 30 deed-restricted units. … I think that’s more than all current deed-restricted housing in Chaffee County.”
Danny Stotler of accounting firm Stotler and Young said he is an investor in this project. “In our office, one person commutes from Howard, and one commutes from Trout Creek.” After talking to other business owners, he thinks, “the need here is tremendous” for affordable housing.
“My daughter is fifth generation,” said Stotler. “I love Salida, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this project.”
Monika Griesenbeck said, “This doesn’t look like Salida. We need rental apartments, not condos.” She also expressed concern about setting a precedent.
Lorri Lau said she was opposed to this development “from the start,” mainly because of the height but also because it could set a precedent for future development.
Robin NeJame said she believes in the European model of “going up and not going out,” which would be “sprawl,” and that Highway 50 is where this type of development should be built. If the Salida Crossing weren’t approved, she worried that a Home Depot or large hotel would get built on the site.
Jackie Berndt said she was born and raised in Salida. “Impacting a dense area with a lot of people can create a lot of problems.” She said a recently completed apartment complex is “constantly being visited by law enforcement for drug problems” and that it’s already embarrassing that the first thing people see coming into town is “the pot shop.”
Wendell Pryor commented that the developer has probably invested tens of thousands of dollars already and that Chaffee County has been in an affordable housing crisis since at least 2015. “The economy is still growing. You have employees who need this housing,” he said, noting that Cozart is a “local developer with experience.”