Candidates discuss balancing growth and open space
Steamboat Springs — Finding a balance between preservation of open space and enabling appropriate development in Routt County was a theme that emerged from a candidates forum for the three county commissioner candidates, hosted by the Steamboat Springs Kiwanis Club Sept. 20.
Candidates included longtime District 2 incumbent Doug Monger, who is running unopposed this election, along with the two candidates competing in District 1 — primarily South Routt — Democrat incumbent Tim Corrigan and Republican challenger Bob Dapper.
Molly Raphael, a member of the audience and not a Kiwanis member, kicked off the forum, by stating, “I’m curious to know how your opinions vary with regard to open space.”
Dapper called the purchase of development rights — PDR — program a “great initiative” but suggested he has issues with the county’s master plan, which is overdue for a rewrite.
“I believe in PDR. It was conceived to help ranchers,” Dapper said. “I believe that’s what it’s about. Urban sprawl comes from the master plan (which says) in its first five pages that it can be used as a guideline. The number one thing is to provide open space and keep it as it is now.”
Corrigan said he believes residential growth in the county should take place in existing towns, including Hayden and Oak Creek, but added that the current Board of Commissioners has had preliminary discussions about how to identify some areas in the county to allow for limited commercial growth.
“I would oppose any new subdivision in unincorporated Routt County,” Corrigan said. “I’m firmly in favor of limiting any residential development to the incorporated areas. There’s ample room in existing communities for development without approving a subdivision in open areas of Routt County.
“By and large, I’m in favor of PDR,” Corrigan added.
Kiwanis Club member Bud Romberg reminded the candidates the (now disbanded) local chapter of Habitat for Humanity attempted years ago to pursue development of a mobile home park on land west of the city of Steamboat Springs near the wastewater treatment plant that was zoned for that purpose. Ultimately, those tentative plans were thwarted by objections from neighbors, Romberg said.
If it’s the county’s position not to develop subdivisions in the unincorporated county, Romberg asked, how does that stance affect the possibility of developing mobile home parks?
Monger reminded Romberg that the parcel in question obtained its mobile home park zoning in 1972 in an era when there was something of a “rush to the county clerk’s office” to capitalize on a growth spurt.
Corrigan said a pre-existing zoning map would lead him to look with a more open mind on a development proposal.
“If it’s zoned for a trailer park, I would not be automatically opposed to that level of development,” he said.
Monger added that county officials have discussed the possibility of allowing a new trailer park next to the existing park in unincorporated Milner. He added that the commissioners have been “very proactive” in approaching city officials to encourage them to act on the potential to expand housing opportunities in the designated growth area within the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan.
“I never say never,” Monger said. “Mr. Corrigan got it right. Take it on a case-by-case basis.”
Dapper said he would take a different approach.
“What’s missing in that conversation,” he said, is asking, “What’s the overall outlook? What’s the goal? Is it workforce housing? I think we need to (decide) what we ultimately want to achieve, before we discuss how it can be zoned.”
Look for a second story based on this week’s Kiwanis county commissioner candidates forum dealing with the outlook for the coal and oil industries in Routt County in the Sept. 23 Steamboat Today.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Xcel Energy announced Wednesday morning that it’s committed to avoiding any employee layoffs when closing its coal-fired power plants, including the two stations in Hayden set to retire later this decade.