"It's a pretty intelligent design for our town," said Ridgway Mayor Pat Willits.
Dubbed the Silver San Juan Buildings, the project will stretch two blocks along the south side of Hwy. 62, between S. Laura and S. Cora streets, where the former Bunkhouse Lodge existed for over fifty years. The complex will be constructed in two phases, the first of which will contain the tavern and offices, with a proposed 13,686 square feet of new commercial space. There will be a total of 17 commercial spaces in the development.
Roger Schaefer, a representative for developer Jeff Investments LLC, informed the council that the development will contain a pair of deed-restricted "rental only" artist's studio buildings or "co-ops" on each side of the existing alley, providing four one-bedroom residential units. Two of them will be 500 square feet, and two no greater than 700 square feet. The alley will separate the two studio buildings and provide one-way egress from south to north through the development, but will retain its two-way uses beyond the boundary of the site.
The central brick Silver San Juan Building that is to anchor the complex will be three stories high with two retail spaces and two office spaces on the main level, two office spaces and three office/retail spaces on the second level, and a penthouse on the third.
The developer obtained four variances from the PUD process during previous hearings for building height, parking for residences, third story setback, and building size. The height variance was for an "architectural feature" on the east side of the building. "Structural accommodations, inclusive of water drainage and fastening of the trestle bridge, are prompting this deviation," said Clifton, who noted that the architectural façade "creates the appearance of two buildings."
As to the parking variances, the council allowed one space per residential unit instead of the two required under the town building code "to accommodate the commercial units."
"All of these commercial units could be subject to heavy traffic and none of them are currently required to provide off-street parking," said Clifton. "It may be prudent to consider long-term impacts of the vehicular requirements of this development."
There are 17 proposed commercial spaces in the development.
The third story setback requirement of 15 feet "for visual relief" was exempted due to the fact that the building will have "fenestration and setbacks, just not on the third story." The 10,000 total square footage limitation, exceeded by 3,686 square feet, was exempted because the architectural features were "sufficiently aesthetically attractive to provide visual relief and contrast as an alternative to monolithic three-story façade surfaces."
But can a tavern exist compatibly in an area where residential growth is increasing significantly? Linda Fulton, speaking for the Ridgway Community Church, and former council member Brian Peters expressed their concerns about overflow parking and the impacts of a tavern situated so close to a church. "Will the extra parking spaces be occupied by employees?" asked Peters.
"That's when it becomes hard abutting a residential area," said Willits. "We'll get 26 spaces. I think it's really going to be a positive addition to the town."
Fulton said that the tavern, which would likely have customers in the facility until 2 a.m. on a regular basis, is not "conducive" to the residential neighborhood. "The church has youth activities and two-step programs for Alcoholics Anonymous there," said Fulton, "and the overflow will park on the church parking lot."
Willits did agree that the development will impact the neighborhood, but said that to not approve would encourage spot zoning. "There are two restaurants across the street," said Willits.
This area is where this type of retail has been intended to be concentrated, absent a change in zoning regulations, according to councilmember John Clark. "There is a 'slim picking' situation for restaurants right now," he said. "Since the site is located within the Historic Core of town, the proposal is a use by right. The town will deal with specifics when a liquor license is applied for. There is still plenty of time to discuss hours and liquor license terms."