Ben Beall: Land use rules help all
The Routt County Board of Commissioners are on the verge of destroying, in perpetuity, the rural agricultural Routt County that is the reason that so many of us decided to live and raise our children in this place.
The RCBCC, at the requests of a few property management companies and some private parties who don’t share our vision for Routt County, are considering the approval of short-term vacation rentals in rural Routt County. This will lead to a commercial assault on rural Routt County.
What is the issue? A quick perusal of VRBO and Airbnb, the two most used vacation rental websites, uncovers maybe 10 illegal rentals outside of Routt County’s designated growth centers and the Steamboat Springs Urban Growth Boundary.
The forementioned parties and some of our commissioners have no respect for the rural/agricultural lands protection vision that has been established in Routt County and reaffirmed many times by its residents since the first zoning regulations of 1972.
As a residential housing contractor for more than 25 years, I am incredulous when I hear complaints about Routt County’s land use regulations. Every one of us has benefited financially from these land use regulations that have preserved our rural landscapes and the environment. That is the reason why we, our friends and visitors come to and return to the Yampa Valley.
The Routt County master plan, adopted by the Routt County Planning Commission and ratified by the RCBCC in 2003, is our vision for Routt County. On its first page is the statement, “This Plan was created by the citizens of Routt County …..”.
What we are witnessing is not only the rejection by the RCBCC of its citizens’ work and input into the master plan but also the RCBCC rejection of their own plan. Short-term vacation rentals have no place in rural Routt County. They belong in Routt County’s designated growth centers (Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Oak Creek and Yampa) or possibly in the one potential growth center (Stagecoach). In the growth centers is where the tax-supported public services exist.
The Routt County Master Plan adopted by the Routt County Planning Commission and ratified by the RCBCC in 2003 states in Chapter 1, Philosophy of Planning in the Growth Section: “1.2J. Development of rural areas outside of designated growth centers should be at a density consistent with agricultural zoning or less.”
The word “less” is the important word. With the majority of Routt County rural lands zoned one residence per 35 acres, how is it that the RCBCC can even contemplate adding short-term vacation rentals on 35-acre parcels or in grandfathered developments of lots of less than 35 acres?
The Routt County master plan even recommends prohibiting short-term rentals. In Chapter 12 , Housing: “12.3H. In order to maintain housing for full-time residents, the County shall prohibit short-term rentals outside of Growth Centers, except in certain circumstances within select zone districts or use permits.” There is even a recommendation “12.4E. Amend non-agricultural zone districts to explicitly prohibit short-term rentals in rural subdivisions.”
I would recommend that the RCBCC and the Routt County Planning Commission re-read their own Routt County master plan. We should all reread this important foundational document. This plan, developed with the help of the residents of Routt County, established a vision for our rural lands as stated in the master pan “is intended to provide a vision for the county reaching 15 to 20 years into the future.”
This vision and its implementation through our zoning and subdivision regulations and land conservation programs has been recognized as a model rural land use plan in Colorado.
Former Routt County commissioner
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I have been skiing about 15 years now, learning to Nordic ski in gym class in elementary school and grew up Alpine skiing at Okemo Mountain in my home state of Vermont. I’m by no means a daredevil but I am comfortable on Alpine skis and my ability to get around in them.