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Planning says West Plan should change

Susan Cunningham

The West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan needs changes, the Routt County Regional Planning Commission agreed at a meeting Thursday.

Some of the sticking points with the 5-year-old plan, which guides development of more than 1,000 acres just west of the city, include a requirement that one-third of new homes built there be affordable, that development and annexation into the city take place in an east-to-west direction, and that new residents be charged about $700 a year to help pay for services.

Those issues and others, planning commissioners decided, need to be changed.

Most planning commissioners agreed that a more reasonable affordable-housing target would be 10 percent to 15 percent, that flexible phasing of development — so interested developers can act quickly — would be helpful, and that charging new residents extra to cover infrastructure costs would be unfair.

The meeting started a city and county process of updating the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan. The goal is not to make changes to the plan yet, but simply to decide what parts of the plan should be changed or re-evaluated.

In coming weeks, the city Planning Commission, City Council and Routt County commissioners also will consider what parts of the plan need another look.

How much the city and county should invest in making the plan happen — through financial and other means — was discussed in depth at the meeting’s start, but the Planning Commission did not make a recommendation about the issue.

Mary Brown, who co-owns about half of the land covered by the plan, said she thinks that issue was crucial. She told the Planning Commission that her family had very different ideas for developing the land than those outlined by the plan and that she and other developers needed to know that the community wanted to make the plan happen.

Otherwise, she said, “we’d probably rather go our own way.”

“We’re here, and we’re willing to be a part of it, but the community needs to get on board,” Brown said.

Many aspects of the plan make development infeasible, she said, such as the requirement of one-third affordable housing.

“We didn’t think this up,” she said about the plan, “so we find it hard to be the people who are expected to implement it when we don’t fully understand what you want.”

The county and city stand to benefit from the plan because of the affordable housing that developments could provide, as well as increased revenues from property and sales taxes.

Since the plan was adopted in 1999, none of the land it covers has been developed, so city and county officials are asking various questions, including whether the governments should have a more active role in making the plan happen.

Planning Commissioner Gary Miller said Thursday night’s meeting showed the county’s desire to make the plan more feasible for everyone.

“I think we’ve all shown tonight that we want to work with everyone to make sure this comes to fruition,” Miller said.

Planning Commissioner Fred Nichols called the meeting a good first step, but said that cooperation between the county and city was necessary to get the plan moving forward.


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