Winter Park extends Alpine Club plat |

Winter Park extends Alpine Club plat

WINTER PARK – The Winter Park Alpine Club got another chance at life Tuesday, Jan. 4, when the Town Council approved, 4-3, an extension of it’s final plat for one more year.

The property, located on Iron Horse Way, was originally meant to be a private ski club for residents of Orvis Shorefox and Grand Elk. After those two developments went into foreclosure, the site sat dormant.

Under Winter Park’s municipal code, the approved plat expired after 2 years when no progress was made on the project.

In November, council denied the initial extension request on a 3-2 vote.

Ron Stern, representing applicant Paul Jardis, said Tuesday that the extension was necessary to enhance and improve the chances of selling the property.

Councilman Mike Periolat argued that there is potentially more value in vacant land these days and that the reason for the town’s ordinance is that old plats are a liability and a burden on the community.

“The better answer for the town is to say no and move on,” Periolat said. But, in the end, Periolat cast his swing vote in favor of approving the extension.

Town Council denied, 3-4, an application from four separate property owners in Old Town (near the Timberhouse Trestle) to rezone their property from the Multiple-Family Residential District to the Destination Center District.

The proposed rezoning, which included Timberhouse Ski Lodge, would have allowed the applicants to build much higher buildings (55 feet instead of 35 feet) with mixed used (commercial and residential). The Destination Center District also allows higher density, less open space and smaller wetlands setbacks.

Council members discussed whether it made more sense for each owner to approach the council independently, and suggested that the plans be dealt with on a case-by-case basis as Planned Unit Developments (PUDs).

Once a zoning change is made, the switch is permanent, explained councilman Chris Seemann. The new zoning would stick with the property even if it were sold.

The properties met all but one requirement for a rezoning except for its potential impact on the town’s water supply.

Council urged the owner of Timberhouse Ski Lodge – the only applicant with immediate plans for redevelopment – to come back to the board on an individual basis.

Council also discussed how to handle the fire pits at Hideaway Park. The fire pits have been temperamental since the park was completed in 2008, and they failed to operate properly for much of the recent holiday season, causing the issue to boil over at the recent council meeting.

Town Manager Drew Nelson said that the problem may lie with the fire pans, which were designed for residential use, and it may have to do with the amount of gas flowing out of the pipe.

With so much focus on other aspects of the park, “We hadn’t put much time into understanding what we were getting with the fire pits,” Nelson said. “We got exactly what we ordered.”

“We tried to make the ones we got work with no success,” he added. “They are not designed to operate in our climate.”

The parks’ two fire pits are set up to run on timers. Too little gas may be flowing out of the pipes, and snow sits on top of the pits overnight – all of which create barriers to good oxygen flow, Nelson said.

But, Nelson said he isn’t sure if there’s enough gas flowing out of the pipe to accommodate a more industrial design. And, changing the pipe size is cost-prohibitive at this point, he said.

“One option is to light them up and leave them on,” he said. “But, that hardly seems like a proper use of resources. And, we don’t have adequate staff to have somebody go turn them on and off all the time.”

Plus, having a robust industrial-sized fire pit like the one at the base of Zephyr at the resort can cost upwards of $50,000 per season in gas alone, council member Periolat said.

For that price, he added, the town could hire somebody to stand there and maintain a log fire while handing out marshmallows and giving directions.

Nelson said the town’s current focus is on being efficient with its employee resources, which sometimes leaves it less focused on customer service and guest experience than on providing residents with basic services.

When it comes to cost, he added, the police department has been operating short-staffed for some time and the fire pits seem like a luxury item compared to that.

But, the town is going to have the company that installed the pit at Cooper Creek Square come look at the Hideaway Park pits to determine if they can be retrofitted for this environment.

“The fire pits were one thing that didn’t get a lot of attention when we did design of park. Shame on us,” Nelson said.

But the upshot, he added, is that he has never heard one complaint on the park’s bathrooms – a rarity for a municipal park.

“I have employees that go clean those bathrooms on their days off just because they want to keep them nice.”

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