County expects to have draft of new master plan by end of May |

County expects to have draft of new master plan by end of May

A hay shed in a meadow off Routt County Road 44 sits in front of Mount Werner. Following multiple outreach efforts, work continues on the county’s master plan.
John F. Russell/ Steamboat Pilot & Today.

Planning officials anticipate having a draft of Routt County’s next master plan by the end of the month with a final version coming in August.

County staff and consultants from the Denver-based firm Cushing Terrell have conducted various forms of outreach since last summer, including in-person and virtual community meetings, open houses and resident surveys.

County Planning Director Kristy Winser said a lot of the outreach has validated parts of the current master plan, which is nearly two decades old, while also revealing some new areas of focus, such as regional mobility, alternative energy and water resources.

A survey sent to residents in March also asked about issues like short-term rental regulations and potentially limiting house sizes.

“This information provides evidence and guidance for (county commissioners) when looking at short-term rental policies, regional mobility project, (and) land use code updates,” Winser said. “There’s a lot of other plans in the works right now, so the master plan that gets adopted can help inform a lot of those other plans.”

On Monday, May 2, Winser and county commissioners reviewed responses from the March survey, which Winser said sought to follow up on some of the issues raised during the process so far. Survey questions included both multiple-choice responses and open-ended comments. More than 800 residents took the survey.

When it comes to short-term rentals, which are currently not allowed in unincorporated parts of Routt County, just over half of respondents favored heightened enforcement.

About 42% of respondents said they were in favor of continuing to prohibit short-term rentals, but 30% said they supported allowing them in some designated areas.

Some of the comments seemed to indicate a lack of understanding of what was in the county’s purview.

For example, comments showed that some residents feel like homeowners associations should be allowed to set their own policies — an instance that is far more common in Steamboat than in the unincorporated county.

“We never hear from people who really are saying you guys should be allowing, should look at liberalizing your regulations as far as short-term rentals in the county,” Commissioner Beth Melton said.

Another question asked about what mobility and transportation options the county should invest in. Unsurprisingly, about 70% of respondents chose upgrading the core trail, but commissioners questioned how much could be gleaned from that. About half of people also chose an answer that said invest in walking and biking infrastructure in general.

Melton said she knows people are supportive of the current proposed extension of the core trail to neighborhoods on the west side of Steamboat. But residents have also talked about expanding it farther, maybe even to other municipalities.

Commissioner Tim Corrigan noted that while the question was aimed at regional transportation, people undoubtedly made choices based on their desire for recreation.

Another question tried to gauge resident’s desire in terms of recreation and the county’s role in it.

Nearly 70% of respondents said they wanted the county to work better with regional partners to better manage parking and trailheads.

About 60% of respondents also said they believed the county should map out wildlife corridors and work to restrict development there, along with continuing the Purchase of Development Rights program and designating access points on the Yampa River.

Winser said all of this information would be included in the draft plan. When the draft is complete, county commissioners will hold a joint meeting with the county’s planning commission in early June.

After adoption, which could come in August, Winser said planning staff would do more outreach in the fall to communicate the new plan.

“Implementation of that plan will come with updating the zoning and subdivision regulations,” Winser said. “That is slated for this fall into early next year.”

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