Proposed Ridge at Deer Mountain subdivision straddles urban growth boundary
Steamboat Springs — The Routt County Planning Commission recommended approval, by a 5-2 margin Thursday night, of the concept for a new rural subdivision comprising 12 five-acre lots on a larger parcel of land three miles west of Steamboat Springs on the south side of Routt County Road 42.
Before it goes forward, The Ridge at Deer Mountain and owners Mike and Michelle Stillman would need to succeed at several more levels of public hearings beginning with a March 10 date with the Board of County Commissioners, who also will scrutinize the concept for the project.
Staff planner Alan Goldich told Planning Commission that there have been previous attempts at developing the land, which shares its eastern boundary with the existing Silver Spur and Steamboat II subdivisions also in the county, and approved in another era. The western third of the larger 317.5-acre parcel has an existing 2002 platted subdivision of 35-acre lots, L Lazy H subdivision. The Stillmans plan to abandon that plan.
“The 35-acre parcels have been swapped for more manageable five-acre lots,” Scott Norsen, a civil engineer from Loveland, who is consulting on the project for the Stillmans, said. “The intent is to make it a transitional community,” from the existing subdivisions to the east to the farm and ranch land to the west.
In 2007, a third developer pulled the plug on a more contemporary land preservation subdivision (LPS) on the Deer Mountain parcel after winning a 5-4 vote of approval from Planning Commission, but before moving on to a final vote by the county commissioners. The constraints of the LPS became an issue for them.
For many years, the LPS has been the preferred model for developing rural subdivisions here, both by county government and developers. Essentially, an LPS rewards developers with bonus lots for agreeing to cluster lots — five acres is the typical size — within one zone of a larger parcel, while agreeing to leave the remainder parcel undeveloped for 40 years. Frequently, the out-parcels remain in agricultural production. Additionally, developers are required to provide other forms of public benefit.
The goal of Routt County is to avoid the old model of 35-acre parcels, which chops the landscape up, leaving a hodgepodge of buildings and entry lanes.
The Stillmans are offering a public trail system linked to existing public trails in Silver Spur and Steamboat II. In addition, they are offering a parcel of a little more than three acres in a corner of their land on U.S. Highway 40 as a site for a future emergency services building.
The acreage owned by the Stillmans sits in an awkward spot when it comes to an LPS subdivision. The 109-acre eastern-most parcel adjoining the existing subdivisions is within the urban growth boundary, implying that at some point in the future, the relatively flat land will be annexed into the city of Steamboat Springs for more dense development.
This project is “unusual in that one-third is inside the urban growth boundary, and if they went through the LPS process, that would be tied up for 40 years and that was the sticking point with the last developers,” Goldich said. “It was their opinion it would be available for development well before that 40 years,” was up.
For that reason, the proponents of Deer Mountain brought their new plan forward as a Planned Unit Development (PUD), essentially mimicking an LPS. The PUD gives county officials more flexibility in approving the project but in exchange for community benefits including open space. The developers propose leaving 38 percent of the 317 acres as open space.
A majority of the Planning Commission agreed that the Deer Mountain plan is preferable to the platted subdivision of 35-acre parcels. However, Commissioners Jim McGee and Troy Brookshire objected to including the 109-acre parcel as open space given its likely future has higher density housing.
“I think it’s nothing more than a real estate deal,” Brookshire said. “You hold back 109 acres, and at some point in time, you could develop it yourself. It’s a way to maximize the development potential.”
However, Scott Havener, representing the board of the Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District, said his organization is considering the suitability of the site offered by the Stillmans for a new fire station that would represent a considerable public benefit in his view.
“Having a (fire) station there would reduce the response time for Steamboat II, Silver Spur, Christian Heritage School and for Milner,” Havener said. “We’ve been looking for years, and this is the first site we’ve had in awhile with water, sewer and electricity.”
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Things are normally pretty quiet around the base area of Steamboat Resort this time of year, but a lot has happened since the ski area closed following the 2020-21 season.