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Cliff hanger

Cliff House's expansion plans appealed by angry neighbors



A huge development proposed for the historic center of Manitou Springs is having problems. But not the sort you'd expect.

The planned Cliff House West is not falling victim to failed financing, or a lack of tourism in a long recession. Rather, the project — an expansion to the luxury, AAA Four Diamond Award Cliff House hotel — has been held up by land ownership issues, historic preservation concerns and, most notably, a group of "not in my neighborhood" homeowners.

In fact, if not for the neighbors, the project might have been wrapping up soon, says project architect Douglas Comstock.

"We've made a zillion changes to try to please them," he says.

After months of bargaining with homeowners on adjacent Grand Avenue — who say the planned hotel addition is ugly and would block their view — developers agreed to make several changes to the design of the project, which will involve both the renovation of Manitou's historic Wheeler House and new construction. Among the changes are a new location for a service entrance, an altered fa├žade and modified landscaping and streetscape.

But none of this has appeased the neighbors, and they plan to appeal a unanimous approval of the project by the city's Historic Preservation Commission by going to Manitou's City Council at 7 p.m. on April 21 at Manitou City Hall. If Council does not rule in their favor, the neighbors could choose to appeal again to Council at other points in the approval process, or even take the matter to court.

Dennis McEnnerney, one of the more outspoken neighbors, says developers haven't met all the neighbors' expectations, though he refuses to elaborate on what those expectations might be.

"I think if we all got together and went over the details, addressing [our concerns] would not be particularly painful nor terribly expensive for the Cliff House (in fact, I think addressing these issues would be very much in their self-interest — but they may not see things that way)," McEnnerney wrote in an e-mail.

Comstock begs to differ, saying the neighbors are now insisting that the developer route delivery vehicles to the hotel through the Manitou post office parking lot, which is federal property.

The architect says they also demand that the developer pay for burying Grand Avenue's power and cable lines, a project that Comstock says is prohibitively expensive and not within the Cliff House's authority to perform.

"What they ask is just crazy," Comstock says, adding that, after more than a year of negotiations, the hotel's owners have stated that they won't do "one iota more" to please the neighbors.

But Manitou Planning Director Dan Folke says he's still hoping a peaceful resolution can be reached. He's even hoping those power lines could get buried — perhaps with a mix of private and public funds.

"[Cliff House representatives] are so far along that they want to get it through the process," he says.

The expansion, estimated at one point to cost $15 to $20 million, includes an "addition" that would dwarf the old Wheeler House's 3,375 square feet, as well as a renovation that would transform the historic house into several large meeting rooms. The property would also feature an indoor pool.

A separate project to add a casual restaurant, gym and patio to the Cliff House's main building is nearing completion.

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