County master plan under review
Series of meeting to focus on rural issues
Steamboat Springs — Keeping growth out of rural Routt County will be one of the big issues addressed next week as county officials meet with the public on updating the county’s master plan and zoning regulations.
County commissioners and planning staff may only be talking to each other instead of the public, though. Only one resident showed up at the last master plan meeting in Steamboat Springs. Five residents showed up at a Hayden meeting.
“Our best attendance was in South Routt,” said County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak. “We had 20 people there.”
While South Routt is less populated than Hayden and Steamboat, the meeting there likely drew rural dwellers who have more interest in issues concerning their ranches or other rural matters addressed in the master plan.
If county commissioners and planning commission have their way, county subdivisions like Saddle Mountain Ranchettes, Big Valley, Moonhill Meadows, Country Green, Dakota Ridge and Whitewood would be developments of the past.
Many of these subdivisions are built on former ranchland and have parcels less than 35 acres but more than four acres, which some believe creates sprawl.
“We will be looking at discouraging development outside of identified growth areas,” county planner John Eastman said.
Eastman said communities like Steamboat, Hayden, and Oak Creek have community area plans that target certain areas for growth.
“We want growth in places that offer urban services and can service new development,” Eastman said.
“It’s hard to get a fire truck to some of these (rural homes) before a fire burns them down. It’s also impossible to have water and sewer service.”
For example, the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan has identified a growth area for thousands of new units, instead of one per every five acres, Eastman said.
This area is next to Steamboat Springs and can be annexed and serviced by city services.
County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said the commissions would look at the zoning regulations that set the criteria for zone changes.
For example, under new criteria, commissioners would be less likely to approve zone changes from Agriculture/Forestry to Mountain Residential Estates where five-acre parcels are common.
Other issues to be discussed include wildfire hazards and home occupations that may be illegal.
For example, the county is full of small excavating companies that keep equipment outside, which sometimes is code violation.
New regulations could help those home-based companies to keep equipment on their property with having to get permits that are now required.
The planning commission also is looking at liberalizing setbacks for residential areas.
For example, Steamboat II has side setbacks at 15 feet.
Those setbacks could shrink, which would allow for more building space.
Commissioners also want to look at wildfire hazards and establish a philosophy on dealing with an increasing rural population whose homes may be threatened by blazes in the brush.
Eastman said one item of discussion would be how to weigh the risk to firefighters’ lives against the homes they’re trying to protect in rural areas.
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