County commissioners vote to move forward with Society Turn Parcel

On Wednesday, the board unanimously decided to go to the final stage of the approval process for development

Via Telluride News By Sophie Stuber, Planet Contributor 

County commissioners vote to move forward with Society Turn ParcelA view near the property line at the medical center site, taken in 2021. (Courtesy photo)

Plans to develop a 20-acre parcel of land by the Society Turn roundabout are moving forward. On Wednesday, May 17, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) in San Miguel County voted unanimously to head to the next step with the Society Turn Parcel.

The development application by Wyoming-based Genesee Properties, Inc. includes office space, retail, restaurants, employee housing and a new regional medical center. The land would also have an expanded wastewater treatment plant and open space and trails.

The current iteration of the Society Turn Parcel would offer up to 121 employee housing units, a building plan of 40,000 square feet for the new medical center and a hotel with 125 rooms.

In the meeting, San Miguel County Planning Director Kaye Simonson presented 54 slides to the commission detailing the proposed development and then opened the discussion to public comment.

The design plans for buildings in natural colors and textures with materials that are resilient to the snow, sun and other elements in Telluride.

“We call these rugged and durable materials that can withstand the pressures of this high altitude environment,” Chris Touchette of CCY Architects said in the meeting. Touchette is working as an architectural planner with Genesee Properties for this development.

“Brick and stone masonry are so much a part of the environment here in Telluride that it would be nice to have that be part of the feature and feel of this new place that we are going to create together,” Touchette added.

Surrounding the buildings, the development will have a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees, including spruce trees, aspen trees, moonshine yarrow and blue oat grass. Evergreen varieties offer more privacy and protection year-round, but it is important to help ensure resilience with diverse species and avoid monoculture.

Supporters of the new regional medical facility in the Society Turn Parcel say that the development of the center is a necessary addition in Telluride.

“From my standpoint as the CEO and the director of the emergency department and someone who has been here for a long time, I know that building a new facility is critical to our community,” Dr. Diana Koelliker, interim CEO of Telluride Regional Medical Center, told the Planet.

The BOCC is now in step four of a five step approval process. The final step will be to prepare the Planned Unit Division (PUD) and subdivision agreement with applicant Genesee Properties, which finalizes details of the design and infrastructure in the development.

“In short, this is a very important step, and we are grateful that it passed unanimously by the board of county commissioners,” Dr. Koelliker said. “This is paramount.”

The final development also involves a 1041 environmental hazard review, and applications for development in a wetland buffer and a floodplain, which are administrative aspects that are not decided by the BOCC.

“They have a lot of requirements to move to the next step and to get that plot approval. Then we can start looking at plans for the design for the facility,” Dr. Koelliker said.

The proposed inclusion of the hotel in this development is intended to offer an option for affordable lodging for visitors, including those for nonprofit events, festivals and sports. The hotel would be restricted to a single owner to avoid selling off units.

“In our community, that has been the single thing that has most impacted the more moderately priced properties. If they become condominiums, they tend to leave the rental pool or become more expensive,” Simonson said during her presentation.

Touchette added that the hotel design would fit with the community.

“We’re not going to allow the architecture of a chain or a specific brand to be bumped down here. Any hotel would have to pass the specific guidelines here so that it is of the place,” he said.

Not everyone in the community supports the plan as it currently stands. During the period for public comments in the meeting, Pam Lifton-Zoline expressed concerns over the size of the development.

“It’s too big for the site, and it’s too big for the region,” Lifton-Zoline said.

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