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In a session that lasted nearly four hours on Tuesday, the Salida City Council covered a variety of topics but again spent the majority of the evening on land use and housing.

Touber Building, City Hall Entrance and B Street parking lot; a proposed site for a “Safe Spaces” summer camping area for service workers. Merrell Bergin photo

Citizen Comment focuses on “Safe Spaces” camping

Three speakers picked up on workforce housing topics covered in the Monday work session.  Cory “Salty” Riggs of BETCH Salida started by supporting the idea of the “Safe Spaces” campground the City proposed for the parking lot at the rear of the Touber Building.

She noted that on Tuesday (April 5, time not confirmed)) she counted 33 open parking spots and requested that the City extend any overnight use to all-day.  Further, she announced that the owner of the parking lot at 323 West First Street (Eric Werner, Salida Bottling LLC) had agreed to let the group use his lot if the city could work out land-use code and other issues.

Angela Winston of High Side! Bar & Grill also spoke about the potential campground site (323 West First) that BETCH found. “Small businesses aren’t going to last without affordable housing…I’d like to know when a concrete date where there is going to be a decision made [about this campground]”, she said.  When Winston pressed a third time for an immediate answer, Mayor Shore repeated his offer to speak with her offline.

Finally, regarding the same parcel at 323 West First, owner/developer Eric Werner stated that his major impact review was also on the agenda and that he “did not want to conflate these two subjects or in any way think there is any kind of quid pro quo going on.”  He did confirm his offer to use the land as an interim camping solution until such time as his project might be approved and move forward, as an extension of the Touber parking lot camping idea.

Ordinance 2022-05 Approved; Inclusionary Housing Enhancements for Workforce Housing
Community Development Director Bill Almquist presented changes on the second reading to four sections of Article 16 of the Municipal Code, adding tools to help with workforce housing.  During the public hearing, resident Scotty Salinski questioned why the City is not using the nearly 100-acre Vandaveer property and said that it … “answers 90 percent of the [housing] problems I heard about tonight”.

The council broadly supported the ordinance including one minor amendment.  However, Council Member Mike Pollack said that with more inclusionary housing details he was having trouble with the growing complexity of the Code.  The ordinance as amended passed 5 to 1 with Pollack opposing.

Ordinance 2022-06 Major Impact Review Tabled for The Residences at Salida Bottling Company
Spanning more than 90 minutes, a second reading and public hearing for a proposed 16-unit planned development (PD) at 323 West First Street heard multiple concerns from council members as well as the public.  The primary objection related to a proposed height variance, granting a 40-foot height on some of the buildings, that if granted might set a precedent for variances from the city’s 35-foot height limit.

In opening remarks, applicant Eric Warner introduced his team and said this project aligns with the city’s goals for density.  He stated that he and his team “share a vision for quality. They wanted this from day one to be a quality project.”  Addressing the height, Werner noted that “change is hard”.

Palace Hotel and “S” Mountain. Photo by Brooke Gilmore.

He further suggested that while his project was ahead of the curve, Salida might soon be seeing heights greater than the current 35-foot limit. Historic buildings now exist higher than the current land-use code height restriction. Responding to a question from Mayor Shore, Planner Dunleavy confirmed that the Unique Theater is 42 feet at its parapet and the Palace Hotel reaches 45 feet (both historic structures pre-date any City codes).

Council members continued to dwell on the height variance as well as the planned three inclusionary housing units within the project.  Citing the “give and take” of a PD, Council Members Kasper, Naccarato and Critelli pushed strongly in favor of obtaining a fourth inclusionary housing unit as a trade-off for height and density variances.  Council Member Pollack said the project was great and that he was not concerned about height.

Discussion moved to the project’s higher roof elevation “cupolas”, meant to allow “rooftop access”.  Project architect Kenny Craft referred to them as “belvederes”.  A belvedere (from Italian for “fair view”) is an architectural structure sited to take advantage of a fine or scenic view. The actual structure can be of any form, whether a turret, a cupola, or an open gallery.

In this case, these are seen as amenities; while not providing more critical livable indoor space, they might allow for a deck.  Council Members Templeton, Pappenfort and Naccarato advocated for some form of rooftop green space, if allowed as opposed to a “party space” where sounds might cause issues with neighbors.

Jeff Wescott of 217 I Street spoke on behalf of himself and his two neighbors on West Second Street, saying “we do not oppose the project…we oppose the height deviations requested.” He referred council members to a letter in their packets and a photo he took, showing a digitally-drawn elevation line at the 40-foot level and the impact on his view.

He cited view corridor studies, noting that the north-south corridor was not studied and that a 40-foot height would eliminate their views north to “S” Mountain. He then pointed to the application and City Code which states that “increases in maximum height are allowed through a PD, but shall not result in:

  • Adverse visual impacts on adjacent sites or other areas in the vicinity, including extreme contrast, interruption of vistas or scale that is disproportionate to surrounding development or natural features.
  • Potential problems for adjacent sites caused by shadows, loss of air circulation or loss of view.”

Tim Schultz spoke on behalf of his neighbor across from the project on West First Street, ‘River Rat Ray’ of Tuff River Stuff.  He asked “…[with all the variances], what is this giving back to the community?  Inclusionary housing but at what expense?”  Scotty Salinski of Purple Mountain Acquisitions spoke for West First Street neighbor Julius Wittenberg. He cited the density of the project as well as upkeep on the project’s private utilities as his concerns, as well as affecting his own (Salinski’s) office views on West First.

Given the extensive discussion regarding the project and the consensus that it overall addressed urban infill housing goals, Mayor Shore suggested tabling the matter; allowing time for staff and the applicant to work through the public and council feedback.  On a unanimous vote, the ordinance was tabled for four weeks.

New Business

With the evening well into its third hour, council considered and moved forward on multiple items.  Chaffee County Community Foundation (CCCF) Executive Director Betsy Dittenber presented recommendations from the Community Grants committee totaling $85,857 for 33 area nonprofit organizations, supporting their operations.  Dittenber thanked the eight volunteers who each spent 25 hours evaluating the competitive grants and she in turn was thanked by Mayor and Council for CCCF’s leadership role in the annual process.

City of Salida Carbon Challenge. Logo courtesy TerraQuest

In time for spring and while students are still in school, council then heard a proposal from local entrepreneurs TerraQuest for an incentive program to fund a “Clean Commute” program.  Salida would be among the first communities to provide cash incentives to  help change behavioral patterns and reduce carbon emissions. The program would pay $0.50 per mile for each participant’s car trip that was replaced by walking, biking or e-biking.

A mobile app, coupled to PayPal or Venmo would automatically payout to an estimated 1,000 participants during the challenge.  With a goal of reducing 10 (metric) tonnes of carbon, the program has a cost of $11,270 in incentives and fees.  Sponsored by the Salida City Council Sustainability Committee, the measure passed unanimously.

After motions passed approving two, 30-minute extensions beyond the usual 2-hour scheduled meeting time, council further approved Resolution 2022-13, authorizing a grant application and committing matching funds for improvements along U.S. 291 at the Salida western gateway, near the hospital campus.  A “housekeeping” Ordinance 2022-07 was also adopted, that increases maximum financial penalties and eliminates penalties by imprisonment for certain offenses, aligning the city with Colorado State law.

After brief reports by council and mayor, and narrowly avoiding another time extension, City Council moved to table a planned Executive Session concerning the City Administrator’s performance review and adjourn.