Controversial cut-through street approved by council
In a 6-0 vote, Steamboat Springs City Council approved a development plan and land use permit for the More Ranch Community Housing Project, which will provide workforce housing for the city and UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.
Normally, the Steamboat planning commission has the authority to approve such projects. However, because of public outcry over the project’s inclusion of a cut-through street that will connect the Barn Village at Steamboat to both the More Ranch complex and the hospital, City Council took the reins for final approval.
The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission approved the project with a 5-2 vote but included recommendations that additional signage be placed to help mitigate traffic on the cut-through street. The cut-through road would extend from the south end of Chap’s Way, paving over an easement between Barn Village and the west side of the hospital.
Members of the Barn Village community fear that paving a connecting road to the hospital will bring more traffic, either from people going home to More Ranch or from drivers speeding to the emergency room, through the neighborhood of single-family homes.
Tempers were high during public comments, which saw an outpour of disapproval for the cut-through road. Several children from Barn Village even approached the podium and addressed City Council.
“Every morning in the school year, I walk to the school bus and I do not want to get hit by a car,” said Logan Pritchard, who lives on Chap’s Way.
City Council was advised by City Attorney Dan Foote to vote on the development within a quasi-judicial role, meaning council was to determine whether the project complies with the Steamboat Springs’ community development code.
Fire Marshall Doug Shaffer recommended the access road because it would bring the Barn Village subdivision into compliance with the fire code’s access requirements, which state the community must have two access roads that are separated by a distance that is at least half of the diagonal diameter of the area the accesses serve.
According to information provided to City Council, the original Barn Village Development Plan from 2008 called for a paved road over the same easement. In a joint application between developer Robert Comes and YVMC, the original plan was to build employee housing for the hospital and affordable housing on the same lot where More Ranch is planned, lot 63. The affordable housing was meant to satisfy affordable housing requirements attached to the Barn Village Development Plan.
Those housing projects for lot 63 were scrapped because Comes couldn’t obtain financing for the project, and eventually his half of lot 63 was foreclosed to the city. But YVMC proceeded on subdividing lot 63, and in 2009 the plat was recorded with an approved access plan that included public through traffic between Central Park Drive and Pine Grove Road. According to the city attorney, “City Council’s power to alter that approval is limited.”
Also included in the 2008 Barn Village Development Plan was a traffic study, which determined that a cut-through street would not create hazardous traffic conditions. Members of the public argued the study is too old to be relevant.
Public Works Director John Schneider responded by saying the original study was actually conservative by estimating 3% annual growth compared to the actual growth that has been between .8% and 1.8%. Schneider also argued that the original traffic study assumed most residents in the new development would be driving to and from work, but the city actually expects a lot of employees at the hospital to walk to work because of its close proximity.
City Council members said they empathized with the Barn Village community, while also stating they were bound by their duties to approve the More Ranch Development Plan because it was within scope of the community development code.
City Manager Gary Suiter had a unique idea to possibly prevent such controversies in the future.
“The takeaway I got from this is when we have a step-out road like this in agreement next time, maybe we put up a sign that says, ‘There will be a road and there will be development here at some point in the future,’ so people are aware of that.”
To reach Spencer Powell, call 970-871-4229 or email him at spowell@SteamboatPilot.com
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