New planning director goes to work in Steamboat Springs
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Rebecca Bessey is not the new kid on the block. In fact, depending on which of Steamboat Spring’s city blocks you pick, she had a role in why that block looks the way it does.
Bessey steps into her new role as director of the city’s Planning and Community Development Department on Monday, Sept. 10. The planning department oversees zoning, development and land use review, historic preservation and long-range planning in the city.
Bessey has served as the department’s principal planner since 2013. Before that, she worked for about three years in Routt County’s planning department after spending about 10 years in her home state of Michigan at a land use and transportation planning firm.
“I’m excited,” she said. “I think we have a lot of work to do. I certainly look forward to the downtown plan being completed and look forward to working with the community to implement the vision and the goals that come out of that plan. I hope to engage our city and our community in some additional long-range planning. It’s something we have not been doing enough of in the last decade or more.”
Among the projects Bessey inherits from outgoing planning director Tyler Gibbs is the implementation of a new community development code.
“We’re committed to making sure that it’s working well,” Bessey said. She said she’s looking forward to hammering the small problems that will inevitably emerge in the new rules to create a code that works to achieve the community’s vision and allows the development community to be successful while working within the code.
Bessey said she also hopes to improve customer service, to build trust within Steamboat’s community of developers and provide for a more predictable and collaborative review process.
“I think sometimes people have a perception that we like to say ‘No,’” Bessey said. “We work very hard every single day to be able to say ‘Yes’ and to get people to where they’re trying to go within the confines of the code and making sure that we’re staying within the adopted ordinances and regulations.
Bessey will be taking on the job as Gibbs retires, or as he calls it, “refocuses.”
“I’m not going to just sit on the porch and read,” Gibbs said. Gibbs said he and his family plan to travel. He’s also started his own limited liability company to offer his services as a consultant, too. He’s already got at least one client — the city.
“I’m going to continue to manage the downtown plan for the city under contract until it’s adopted,” Gibbs said. “I’ll still be engaged with the city and the community to a degree.”
Gibbs also serves on the board for the committee for the Steamboat Springs’ Creative District. He also volunteered to be involved in a group working to determine the best location for a new Steamboat Fire Rescue station downtown.
Gibbs spent about 15 years working as an architect in private practice. He then worked for the city of Denver from 1992 until he started as Steamboat’s planning director in 2010. In Denver, he worked on the Denver Bronco’s Mile High Stadium, the Colorado Convention Center and the redevelopment of Stapleton International Airport and Lowry Air Force Base.
After 18 “very fun and interesting years” in Denver, Gibbs and his family moved to Steamboat, a town they had visited for many years.
Gibbs said he’s “really pleased” that he was able to play a part in improvements to downtown Steamboat. In 2012, Gibbs brought a panel in from the Urban Land Institute, which created a report that allowed improved streetscapes and sidewalks downtown to gain the momentum needed to come to fruition. The contract work he’s completing for the city is a continuation of this project.
Challenges like creating affordable housing, long-range plans and solving Steamboat’s downtown parking struggles, will still remain, Gibbs said. These are issues that cannot be solved by one director, department or city government alone, he added.
“I didn’t solve those issues,” Gibbs said. “They’re not easy to solve. They’re now going to be part of Rebecca’s challenges. Ultimately, the solutions to those things come from the community.”
Both Gibbs and Bessey urged the community to get involved, be it a Planning Commission or City Council meeting or at town halls on the new fire station and downtown improvement plan.
“There’s a lot of ways for people to get involved,” Gibbs said. “If they have any questions about how to get involved, they can always call.”
Contact the Steamboat Planning and Community Development Department at 970-871-8258 or online at steamboatsprings.net/141/Planning-Community-Development.
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