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City officials change area plan

Council, Planning amend draft update in joint meeting

Christine Metz

Revisions were made and public comment was taken Tuesday night as the City Council and Planning Commission had their first joint review of the adopted draft for the Steamboat Springs Community Area Plan Update.

The two city boards agreed to tighten language to create more restrictions on big box retail stores and national chains, to remove the option to extend Yampa Street to 13th Street and to consider, but not require, a jobs-to-housing linkage program.

In a joint letter, the Mountain Business Association, the Downtown Business Association and Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley asked the city to add recommendations into the plan that would foster an economy that is community based and locally owned.

The recommendations asked for economic incentives to support local businesses and to preserve Steamboat’s unique retail experience by evaluating the impact of proposed big box and formula chain retail development.

“I think we all agree, part of what gives Steamboat its charm and character are the little things that make it unique,” Mountain Business Association President Chris Corna said.

Other business owners expressed concerns about franchise stores coming into town such as Victoria’s Secret, Gap and Gart Sports because of the unfair advantage they say national chains have over existing locally owned stores in Steamboat.

The council and Planning Commission were supportive of the recommendations, but some members said they did not go far enough to prevent the encroachment of national chains feared by business owners.

The boards recommended that the group work with city staff to create language that would address those issues.

“Both factors affect the same issue — local economic vitality,” City Council President Paul Strong said. “I think how we regulate them is different.”

Planning Commission Chairwoman Kathi Meyer questioned whether big box retail stores coming into Steamboat remained a threat. She said all the land eligible for big box stores already had been developed or had plans for development.

Councilman Steve Ivancie worried that if the city limited big box retail within the city limits, where land is not available, that development would continue in the county. County Planner Chad Phillips said big box retail stores would not go into the county.

The city already has big box regulations in place so that any building with more than 12,000 square feet is a conditional use and requires approval, City Planner Tom Leeson said. But the city could get into legal trouble if it restricts all franchise businesses from coming to Steamboat, Leeson said.

After pleadings from supporters of Bud Werner Memorial Library, the council and Planning Commission agreed to take language out of the plan that retains the option to extend Yampa Street to 13th Street.

The extension would help ease the traffic bottleneck created at 13th Street and Lincoln Avenue, which is the only west entrance into town, but it also would impact plans the library had for an expansion.

The library had purchased land between 13th Street, Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street with plans of building a new library and using Little Toots Park as an enhanced reading area.

The City Council agreed the library and Little Toots Park is an important community asset that should stay downtown and other transportation alternatives should be reviewed.

The largest debate of the night was sparked by a recommendation for a jobs-to-housing linkage program.

Strong approved of housing policies that would require a minimum number of affordable housing units built for each new development and monitoring a ratio of 1.5 jobs per house.

But, Strong said he had concerns about a policy that would require commercial and lodging developments to provide a certain amount of housing for the new jobs they would create.

When the council approved an impact fee in 2001, it agreed not to require new development to build a certain amount of housing for the jobs it would create, Strong said. With many residents holding more than one job, Strong said, the city would have problems knowing whatnumber of jobs created the right ratio.

Other members voiced concerns that a job-to-housing linkage program would hurt small businesses that already were struggling and be a disincentive for expanding a business. Planning Commissioner Scott Myller said the linkage program could make Steamboat less attractive than other communities for larger businesses looking to relocate.

The two boards agreed to keep the existing language in the plan because of a caveat that stated if a job-to-housing linkage program was not feasible in the short term, the city should consider monitoring a job-to-housing ratio and implementing a program for larger employers.

Steamboat resident John Spezia said the city should stop studying, researching and talking about a job-to-housing linkage program and start implementing it.

— To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com


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