Routt County Commissioners deny proposed neighborhood near Heritage Park

Development agreement in place restricts use of land to athletic fields

As proposed the Heritage Village neighborhood would add 26 residential units on land just west of Steamboat Montessori School.
Routt County Planning Department/Screenshot

The Routt County Board of Commissioners denied initial plans for a 26-unit subdivision in west Steamboat Springs on Tuesday, Aug. 3, but that likely isn’t the end for the project.

As proposed, Heritage Village would include 20 single-family homes and three duplexes in an area just west of Steamboat Montessori School where there are two soccer fields. The development would eliminate those fields.

Last month, the Routt County Planning Commission approved the conceptual sketch for the subdivision with conditions.

But at the time, the planning commission was not aware of a decade-old development agreement signed by county commissioners and the owner of the Heritage Park subdivision Tyrone Lockhart. The agreement restricts the use of the land in question to athletic fields.

“Staff’s recommendation is to deny the application today,” county planner Alan Goldich told commissioners. “This is a (Planned Unit Development) amendment, but the applicant did not mention this development agreement once in any of their application materials. If they had, we wouldn’t be in this situation right now.”

Commissioners Tim Redmond and Tim Corrigan both voted to deny the application. Commissioner Beth Melton was not at the meeting and did not vote.

Tuesday’s denial doesn’t derail the project, though it will likely slow it down. Even if the commissioners approved the conceptual sketch now, it is just the first step in the regulatory process before dirt can start moving.

Goldich said the development agreement is directly tied to the existing Planned Unit Development zoning and is mentioned in the covenant signed by homeowners in Heritage Park. Changing that agreement would require approval from two-thirds of homeowners.

As proposed, Heritage Village would replace athletic fields with 20 single family homes and three duplexes.
Routt County Planning/Screenshot

If the development agreement had been included in the application, Goldich said it would have needed to be dealt with before planning commission would have considered the proposal, let alone county commissioners.

Melinda Sherman, an attorney with the Steamboat law firm Sharp, Sherman and Engle, who said she was representing Lockhart at the meeting, asked commissioners to table the proposal and send it back to the planning commission in September.

Sherman said Lockhart was under the impression that action had already been taken and therefore was not at the meeting. The denial prevents the application being considered again for a year, but if the application were deemed “significantly different” it would be allowed to proceed.

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“The people who put the application together understood that (this meeting) was being postponed,” Sherman said. “They’re going to be penalized for a year because of this.”

“If (the application) has been modified enough, we can accept the application,” said Routt County Manager Jay Harrington in response. “But we would not be at this point of last minute denials if this was fully disclosed when the application was submitted.”

After the meeting, Sherman said Lockhart would continue to pursue Heritage Village.

“Things change and the needs of the community changes and I don’t think (Lockhart) would want to do anything that would be bad for the community,” Sherman said. “He is looking forward to working with the county and the homeowners association to get a development that works for everyone.”

The development agreement isn’t the only hurdle, though. Goldich gave three reasons to deny the application, with the first two regarding the development agreement.

The third was that the proposal didn’t conform with county zoning regulations that require new open space to be the same level of quality that the previous open space was. One of the planning commissions conditions for approval was to better identify the open space and potential uses in the plan.

The conceptual sketches are one of the first steps in approving a new subdivision. The second and third steps in that process are more involved, and generally incorporate various studies of how the development will impact the area.

Traffic and pedestrian safety is one of the biggest concerns, especially among nearby residents. Several spoke during public comment Tuesday to complain of traffic at the intersection where residents access Steamboat II and Heritage Park and questioned how that will be remedied.

Others said a lack of safe crossings over U.S Highway 40 in general is a real problem that has only gotten worse since Sleeping Giant School opened and became a “magnet” for youngsters in the area.

“Somebody’s going to get killed there,” said James Burgess, who owns land on the east side of Heritage Park. “Children are afraid to cross Highway 40 going over to the Montessori School so they go underneath in the culvert.”

But others said they were opposed to the development all together, referring to the development of mostly single family homes in part of the county that has been designated for growth as “density.”

“Open space and character is very much part of (the West Steamboat Area Plan),” said Rita Donham, who owns land adjacent to Heritage Park. “This was not planned for density originally, it was planned for the nice neighborhood that it is.”

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