Their goal: to reduce the "mass and scale" of the project's western façade in order to pass the scrutiny of HARC, which earlier this month denied approval for the three-story, 50,000-square-foot, 48-foot tall grocery store and condominium project.
This latest effort by Clark and his team came after council asked the applicants if they would be willing to reduce the building’s western façade, which drew the most objections from the public and HARC. The breakthrough came when council, after an extensive, three-hour-plus meeting on Tuesday, granted the applicants permission to reduce the square footage for affordable housing which it had previously required.
The impasse was broken with a simple question by Telluride Mayor John Pryor.
"Is there anything you can do with the west end to change how it's perceived from the Bachman Village side?" he asked.
"What are you asking us to do?” Clark responded. “You tell me, John. What is it that the community wants us to do?"
When the applicants went before HARC three weeks earlier, they had refused to reduce the square footage of the project based on the economic necessity of using the sale of free-market condos to help fund the expansion. But after Town Councilman Mark Buchsieb offered the pivotal suggestion that they "knock off portions of the employee housing, and a couple thousand from the commercial," project architect Hunter seized the opportunity.
"If we do away with a couple of thousand (square feet), does the council have the ability to excuse that amount of employee housing?"
Clark said he would be amenable to the idea since "we don't lose the economic units," that is, six new free-market condominiums for the two floors above the 20,000 foot grocery store expansion.
"I think we can make a substantial reduction in the west side roofline," Hunter told the council. "This feels to me like there is a fairly substantial mass that's going to go away."
With that, Pryor moved to remand the matter to HARC, with the council voting 6-0, with Councilman Bob Saunders recused due to the close proximity of his home to the Clark's property.
"I'm very encouraged by our community working together," Pryor said at the end of the work session.
The meeting began with an apparent air of intractability.
Town Attorney Kevin Geiger told council that HARC's denial, based on the subjective interpretation of the project's mass and scale, is "aspirational, but clearly not absolute."
Town Historic Planner Mike Davenport, in an overview of the history of the application, said such aspects of the project as the maximum allowable height "does apply with the land use code with the waiver allowed by the council," and that another sticking point, parking, actually includes "eight more spaces," for a total of 88, than what is required by code.
“In terms of the (historic) architectural character, the character of the building does have those characteristics, even though it’s outside the historic landmark district,” he said.
But while he said town planning staff recommended approval, "subject to certain conditions," the majority of a roomful of more than 70 citizens in attendance pleaded with town officials to uphold HARC's denial and send it back for more work.
"You cannot go against your boards, otherwise you will drive away community participation," Peter Pitts said.
Town residents Phil and Linda Miller pitched in by telling the council it shouldn’t allow the applicant’s financial concerns take priority over the town’s desire to retain the historic architectural feel of the community.
After several speakers said they had been “HARC’d” before with their own projects, they nonetheless rose to the defense of the board’s mission.
“Everyone who lives in town who lives in a historic structure takes an economic hit,” Linda Miller said. “Think of the equality of this issue.”
HARC members were also present to speak their peace.
"I did my job," said Sonchia Jilek, HARC boardmember. "Are you doing yours?"
Robert Balkind, representing Bachman Village, said most of the residents objected to the visual impact created by the western façade, asking council to demand a "trim back."
"The impacts are tremendous," he said. "It's going to block the view."
In response to the apparent community support for HARC's denial, several members of the council stated their preference to send it back to the board one more time.
"We are not ignoring what HARC has done," said Councilmember Stu Fraser, who with Councilmember Andrea Benda had called up the application, a procedure whereby council acts as HARC. "The denial of this application was the only way for us to move forward," he said.
But Councilmember Roberta Peterson said the only way to move forward was to move back.
"Remand it back to HARC," she said. "They are the experts."
Those who came to support the original HARC decision gave a positive response to the council's remand of the application back to the board with the direction that the developer “significantly reduces" the western façade.
"This is certainly moving in the right direction," Balkind said.
Summing up the results of the meeting after criticizing council for calling up the matter in first place, resident David Oyster said "This whole meeting has reinforced my faith in the process."