Empowering commission | SteamboatToday.com

Empowering commission

Council to discuss ceding control to appointed body

Brandon Gee

The new Steamboat Springs City Council – which already has cut one meeting a month and discussed delegating its role as the local Liquor License Authority to a separate body – also is discussing increasing efficiency by removing itself from some planning decisions.

“The goal isn’t really to shirk responsibility as it is to make planning more efficient so we’re not doing things twice,” Councilman Jon Quinn said.

The idea was discussed at a recent day-long City Council retreat and, at tonight’s City Council meeting, Planning Director Tom Leeson will give a report about the type of development applications the council could place on its consent calendar and which applications must follow the city’s typical public hearing process.

Items placed on the consent calendar generally are not discussed and can be approved with a single motion. However, any member of the council or public may withdraw any item from the consent calendar for further consideration.

Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski has discussed putting more applications on the consent calendar as an initial step, but she would ultimately like to go even further.

“I would have the Planning Commission make the determination with a possible appeal to the City Council,” Hermacinski said.

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While the city’s current codes and regulations allow for development plans and final development plans to be placed on the consent calendar, revisions to the Community Development Code would be required to allow the same for additional applications such as preliminary plats and waterbody setback variances. And Hermacinski’s proposal might require a voter-approved amendment to the City of Steamboat Springs Home Rule Charter, which defines the Planning Commission as an “advisory agency” only.

Councilman Steve Ivancie said he is reluctant to make such a change.

“We’re the elected officials,” Ivancie said. “We’re the ones ultimately responsible. I’m not comfortable with that unless I can be convinced the process will work.”

Hermacinski said she is “absolutely” comfortable with ceding more power to the unelected planning commissioners as long as City Council serves as the appellate body.

“The City Council would still be the ultimate authority,” she said.

Also, Hermacinski said her proposal would not apply to major projects, such as those that would require a planned unit development application.

“The City Council would still be hearing the big stuff,” Hermacinski said. “DPs (development plans) and FDPs (final development plans) are not big policy discussions. I think we’re going to miss the boat on a lot of big policy issues if we’re discussing the color of buildings.”

Hermacinski said it isn’t enough to simply put more things on the consent calendar because City Council has, in the past, proved its inability to resist pulling items off it.

Leeson also noted that problem, and he said applicants whose projects are on the consent calendar still sometimes bring entire development teams to City Council meetings in case their application is pulled.

“The discussion is how they treat the consent agenda,” Leeson said. “That may or may not help the process. It’s an issue we have grappled with for a long time.”

Quinn noted that a more empowered Planning Commission might encourage more expert candidates to apply for it.

“You get a lot more enthusiastic planning commissioners if they know they’re not just going to be the precursor to City Council,” Quinn said.

City Attorney Tony Lettunich said there are no state laws that would prevent Steamboat from taking the type of steps proposed.

Also today, City Council will consider the proposed 130-unit Edgemont condominium complex at the base of Steamboat Ski Area. After an initial application that was narrowly denied by the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission, Edgemont developers The Atira Group revised their proposal, which was then unanimously recommended for approval by the Planning Commission.

Council also will hear a report from City Manager Alan Lanning on the city’s planned departure from the Routt County Regional Building Department. Also, Lanning will publicly disclose that the city has pur chased services and equipment from Northwest Data Services, which is owned by Councilman Jon Quinn.

– To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

If you go

What: Steamboat Springs City Council meeting

When: 5 p.m. today

Where: Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.

Call: City offices at 879-2060 for more information


5 p.m. City Council and staff reports; first readings of five ordinances adopting street names

7 p.m. Public comment; Planning Commission report; Planning Commission referrals; consideration of a development plan, final development plan and planned unit development for the 130-unit Edgemont condominium complex at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area