Hotel snubs carefully crafted guidelines

I’m floored that a massive, 242,810-square-foot development with major impact on Durango was green-lighted by our Planning Commission without any community involvement.

This five-story complex running the entire block along Second Avenue between Third and Fourth streets would dominate the landscape anywhere in Durango. Not only is it devastating to imagine two huge hotels (178 rooms) looming behind our homes, add the significant increase in traffic, the noise – including the constant hum of the mechanical building, terraces with guests looking into yards and windows, the lights, the delivery and garbage trucks. This is a historic neighborhood that cannot make a porch one foot wider, say, or install an energy-saving window in order to “preserve its historic character.“

A lot of time and money was spent determining the height limit (55 feet) for downtown commercial buildings. Nonetheless, the Planning Commission recently recommended a height variance for this project. Why? It was needed for the current design, which happens to violate at least seven of the 2004 building guidelines painstakingly developed for the Second Avenue business district. These guidelines reflect awareness of the importance of balancing community and commercial interests, of protecting what’s best about Durango, and discerning the difference between growth and greed. Again, why?

Why, with so many design possibilities, are we even talking about a project that would so irrevocably and negatively impact residents who invest in this town day in and day out?

At a neighborhood meeting hastily called after residents voiced concerns, the developer, Scott McCallister, was asked why the proposed hotels were so huge. He responded that he had consulted with the “number one national agency” who had determined the number of rooms he would need to attract a franchise such as a Marriott or Hyatt. Huh. So the every-day lives of residents (including many families who invested in a neighborhood), will change for the worse, property values will tank, in order to attract a franchise.

If ever we needed a Planning Commission and City Council that protects Durango residents, it is now.

Darrah Westrup

Durango

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