Commissioners find little to like about Deer Mountain plan
Steamboat Springs — Effectively reversing a 5-2 vote of approval by its Planning Commission, the Routt County commissioners Tuesday unanimously tabled a proposal for the proposed Ridge at Deer Mountain 12-lot rural subdivision west of Steamboat II. But that tabling must have felt like a smack down to developer Mike Stillman and his consulting engineer Scott Norsen.
“When I first read this application, I didn’t know whether to be angry, laugh hysterically or be offended,” Commissioner Doug Monger told the applicants. ”I’ll vote against it today.”
Ultimately, the commissioners voted to table the proposal in order to give the proponents a chance to come back to the approval process after making, what the commissioners called, significant changes. Monger pointed out to them that had they voted to deny the application this week, the developers could not have returned with a new plan for a full year.
Monger was objecting to the plan based in part on his perception that Stillman was attempting to circumvent the county’s favored Land Preservation Subdivision (LPS) ordinance, which was set up to incentivize developers to turn away from their statutory right to create ungainly subdivisions of 35-acre parcels that tend to carve up the landscape. Developers are offered bonus lots to instead cluster five-acre building sites on one portion of a larger acreage, leaving agricultural land intact.
Monger said he felt that the developers were asking too much and not giving back enough public benefit with their proposal. Instead of the preferred LPS, the developers were proposing the rare Planned Unit Development (PUD) process that gives them more latitude to design their subdivision and its density to suit their goals, in exchange for providing public benefit.
As public benefit, the developers are proposing significant dedicated open space and a public trails system and giving the Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District a three-plus-acre site for a new West of Steamboat fire station.
But their parcel is complicated by the fact that 109 acres on the easternmost portion of their parcel is within the Steamboat Springs Urban Growth Boundary, signifying that at some point in the future it will be annexed into the city of Steamboat Springs for higher density development. For that reason, they are not seeking to develop it at this time.
“This application is not an LPS application,” Staff Planner Alan Goldich said. “It’s a PUD, but they used LPS standards,” in assembling their proposal. “They are asking for 12 residential lots (an LPS would have given them 11).”
However, the subdivision development as proposed would actually allow them to create 24 dwellings because they are seeking the right to build attached caretaker units at The Ridge at Deer Mountain, as they would be allowed in the existing subdivision of 35-acre parcels.
Norsen told the commissioners that in his view, the proposed subdivision would create a rare transition from the suburban subdivisions of Steamboat II and Silver Spur to the east into lower density at his project with productive ag land to the west.
“The project benefits the public because 35-acre parcels get turned into manageable five-acre parcels,” Norsen said. “In all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never had an opportunity like this to use natural geography to do a transition for residential to ag/forestry.”
Former County Commissioner Ben Beall stood up during public comment to register his opposition to The Ridge at Deer Mountain.
“This is trying to fit a five-acre (lot) subdivision in a place in Routt County where we’ve already done away with” them, Beall said. “Our vision in Routt County is that it goes from urban to rural. What’s the next development that would like to go the same way to create a five-acre subdivision?”
Commissioner Tim Corrigan was a little more kind to Stillman than Monger.
“I’ll tell you what I like about,” the project, he said. “I like the idea that without the 35-acre parcels we’ll have fewer (subdivision) roads entering county roads. I really don’t like the ability for secondary units. It’s a huge leap out there from 12 residences to 24 residences.”
Commissioner Cari Hermacinski essentially agreed with Beall, saying, “The most that I would support today is a tabling…it’s far short of what it needs to be as a PUD. I agree that it would be precedent setting, and it would be a terrible precedent.”
Monger made the motion to table the project, and it carried.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Things are normally pretty quiet around the base area of Steamboat Resort this time of year, but a lot has happened since the ski area closed following the 2020-21 season.