Best Western development Raises Ire of Residents – Rick Langenberg

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Page to resubmit plans for major hotel project
Rick Langenberg

Woodland Park certainly needs more lodging rooms to accommodate visitors, but please don’t allow a monstrous five-story project kill the town’s trophy-level views and unrivaled scenic skyline.

That was the theme of a Woodland Park Planning Commission hearing last week, with the planners voting 6-1 to accept the recommendation of the staff and require developer William Page to go back to the drawing board for revised plans for a five-story, 80-room Best Western project in Gold Hills Square South that has commanded main stage attention in recent weeks. A follow-up hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 22.

The commission agreed with WP Planning Director Sally Riley. She contends that the town definitely needs more lodging amenities to add onto its short lineup of less than 100 overnight rooms, but argued that the size of the planned hotel is way too massive and tall for downtown Woodland Park. “It changes the footprint and character of Woodland Park,” said Riley, in objecting to the design.

Not every member of the commission was thrilled with this recommendation regarding a plan that would drastically change a commercial area once occupied by Woodland Hardware and by the current Goodwill and Sherwin Williams businesses into a major hotel project. The latter two businesses would be located to another site in the Gold Hill Square area near the Country Lodge to make room for the Best Western.

Ken Hartsfeld cast the dissenting tally, arguing that the commission needs to give the developer more input regarding what it wants. He suggested placing limits on the size of the hotel to offer more guidance. Otherwise, he fears the commission will repeat the same steps and find itself in a similar predicament on Oct. 22.

Most residents, who attended last week’s meeting, liked the idea of a major hotel outlet coming to town. However, they opposed this massive of a project, saying it would clash with the small-town character of Woodland Park They maintained that it would create a huge eyesore.

The proposed 63,000 square-foot, 58-foot- tall project would feature 80 rooms, an enclosed parking garage, a lobby, breakfast room, an indoor pool, a meeting room and support services. Since plans were unveiled before the WP Downtown Development Authority board, the project has become the talk of the town, with a bombardment of posts on social media sites.

Page, who led the presentation for his development team, accepted the city’s decision to delay any action. He admitted that the project was in its beginning phases of discussion. Moreover, he stressed that the impetus behind the venture stemmed from Goodwill’s desire to obtain a larger facility. He said he has always considered developing a hotel project at Gold Hill Square.

Page, who has owned Gold Hill Square South shopping center since the late 1970s, stated that he commissioned a marketing study from a Fort Collins company, which touted the possibility for a major hotel at this site. He also noted that he received much encouragement from Best Western representatives.

City officials and residents didn’t object to the idea of a major hotel. Riley conceded that the town has a definite shortage of rooms, especially when major groups come to town.

However, she maintained that the project design didn’t make the grade and was too big for the downtown. She wanted Page to redesign the structure by reducing the height of the hotel, creating a more attractive roof design and adding architectural elements. “A lot has changed in Woodland Park,” said Riley, in discussing the implementation of design standards. She said the downtown was trying to incorporate a mountain, western flavor. “We felt this was not in character with the town,” said Riley, in discussing the Best Western plans. “We felt this was not appropriate for Woodland Park.”

In addition, Riley contended that the current design would “significantly change the character of Gold Hill Square South,” one of the town’s more prominent shopping centers.

During his presentation, Page didn’t try to debate with the city officials. According to city projections, the project would create a boon for the town, and create an addition of more than $100,000 in tax dollars for the town through hotel room levies and other fees. Page and city officials said one of the recurring comments by business leaders is that “we would very much like to see more hotel rooms in Woodland Park.”

Page believes the Best Western project would help capture this demand. He expressed an interest in working with the city to develop a project that meets the approval of planners. According to Page, he originally wanted to do just a three-story development, but was encouraged by hotel experts to increase the size. “We got a very good reaction from Best Western,” said Page. He said the project would suit the needs of “upper mid-scale” customers, who frequent such lodging places as Best Western, Hampton Inn, and Holiday Inn Express. “That is the market that is not being taken care of,” said Page.
He compared the project to a typical Best Western hotel done in other towns, like Castle Rock.

Why so big?
But in criticizing the project, some residents noted that the Castle Rock model isn’t a good example, saying the developer should examine Best Western hotels in smaller mountain towns. “I was alarmed,” said Kathy Stockton, who contended that the development could overwhelm their neighborhood, located outside the Gold Hill Square South shopping center. “I am not against the hotel. I am just against the height.”

At the same time, she complimented Page for the work he has done with the Gold Hill Square shopping centers. “Where would Woodland Park be without you,” said Stockton.

These comments characterized the views of most residents who spoke at last week’s hearing. A few, though, likened the old days of Woodland Park, dominated by rodeos and more equestrian activities. “This is not the Woodland Park I fell in love with,” said one long-time resident.

Bryan Kochis, who has made frequent comments on a Woodland Park Community social media site, reiterated that Woodland Park’s prime assets are its unrivaled views. “It is a feature Woodland Park cannot afford to lose,” said Kochis. “Woodland Park is one of the most beautiful towns in Colorado.”

Like many speakers, he urged the commission to adopt the staff’s recommendations and urge the developer to design a project that “protects our view shed.”

“It could destroy the ambiance of our small mountain town,” said resident Steve Jeroslow, in an e-mail read to the commissioners at last week’s hearing, in objecting to the design.

Other project objectors included representatives of the Northeast Teller County Fire Protection District. However, Riley stressed that their opposition dealt with the fact that the project is part of the Downtown Development Authority, meaning that the fire department will receive no tax revenue for the extra services it provides.

Most commission members commented that they looked forward to revisiting the project in October. Like many speakers, they lauded the idea of another major lodging project, but wanted to see changes in the design.