Indoor soccer arena blocked

Goodwill project overwhelmed by ordinance obstacles

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Plans to construct a building where youth and adults can play indoor soccer may never come into fruition if property owner William Sawer can't meet city parking and landscaping requirements.

And it looks as though he can't.

Sawer attended Tuesday night's city council meeting hoping he would be granted a variance despite a unanimous recommendation from the city's planning and zoning commission that he not be.

He wasn't.

After lengthy discussion, the council voted 7-0 to deny his request.

Sawer told planning and zoning commission members he could only provide 10 of the 16 trees required and none of the shrubs. A city ordinance calls for 24 shrubs to be planted based on the amount of property Sawer intends to develop.

He has plans to construct a 7,000-square-foot building and develop a 54,000-square-foot area on First Street near the city's wastewater treatment plant.

Sawer's plan also provided 16 parking spaces when city ordinance requires 35.

He told the city council Tuesday night he could conform to all of the parking and landscaping requirements if he was allowed to have gravel instead of a paved parking lot.

Paving 35 parking spaces would cost nearly $20,000, he said.

"I am not a developer or a businessman," he said. "I've been a soccer coach for 27 years. I'm not doing this for the profit, though there will be some. I'm doing this for the kids.

Sawer also said there was no way he could get water to the property for an automatic sprinkler system for the landscaping -- another reason the commission denied his request. He said he planned to water manually, which would save water. It would also save him the cost of year-round water and sewer fees for a facility that would not be used in the spring and summer months.

That savings, Sawer said, would be past on to the youth who use the facility.

"I want to make it affordable for the kids," he said.

He estimated it would cost more than $10,000 to run a water line to the property for a sprinkler system.

"I feel if there's an ordinance, these ordinances must have some flexibility when a project is not a normal one and I don't think the city has seen anything like this," he said. "Paving the parking lot and irrigating the landscaping will not make it a better facility for the kids. It will make it look better, but it's right next to a sewer lagoon so it won't be developed."

Sawer plans to spend his retirement savings on the project, estimated to cost nearly $40,000 at a minimum. He said he couldn't afford more.

"After that, my pockets are empty," he said.

Indoor youth soccer programs have been cut in half, Sawer said, because there is a lack of facilities.

"I just want a place where kids can go and play," he said.

Though council members applauded the idea, several felt that granting this variance opened the door to more requests.

"I think (Sawer) has a great idea," Councilor Don Jones said. "And I think it would be great for the kids and the city of Craig, but we have to look at what the goals of the '97 (parking and landscaping) ordinance were, which is what is good for the future of the city,"

Jones said the city would be willing to grant the variance if Sawer presented a plan to meet the code in stages but Sawer said that wasn't possible.

"I don't want to stretch this out," he said. "I don't want three more planning and zoning meetings or three more city council meetings. I'm telling you honestly that I cannot afford to pave that. I don't have the money and can't see having that money in the future."

Sawer wasn't the only one pushing the plan. Several audience members spoke in favor of the proposal and urged the council to grant a variance.

"(Sawer) is trying to benefit the city by providing something for youth and adults to do," Craig resident Ray Dubois said. "This is a guy who's willing to take his retirement money and basically donate it all to the kids. He's willing to stretch himself if you do."

But Sawer's inability to meet the requirements of the city's parking and landscaping ordinance wasn't the council's only concern with the proposal.

Because Sawer doesn't plan to run a water or sewer line to his property, he cannot provide bathrooms as required by the Uniform Building Code. His plan calls for portable toilets to be placed outside the building. But city Building Inspector Dave Costa said that didn't meet specifications.

"The parking and landscaping aren't the big issue here," Costa said.

Additionally, Sawer's plan calls for a building with no heat or windows, also a violation of the Uniform Building Code.

Even if the council granted the variance, Costa said he couldn't issue Sawer a building permit based on the plan presented.

Mayor Dave DeRose urged Sawer to speak with granting agencies, such as the Moffat County United Way or the Human Resources Council to see if additional funding is available.

He was asked to reconsider his plan and think about offering to phase in improvements and resubmit it to the planning and zoning commission, but it's not likely he will.

"Drawing it out isn't going to change the numbers and the number is what I have in my pocket," he said.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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