Routt County Commissioners feel limited by 2003 master plan |

Routt County Commissioners feel limited by 2003 master plan

— Frustrated by the constraints a nearly 13-year-old master plan, the Routt County Board of Commissioners directed Planning Director Chad Phillips this week to research other counties in Colorado with similarly strict big-picture planning documents to determine if there are provisions for elected officials to make exceptions.

Among the sources of frustration for commissioners are provisions in the April 2003 master plan which strongly discourage allowing new commercial enterprises outside of cities, towns and a handful of pre-existing commercial areas such as Clark and Phippsburg. County commissioners say those constraints have prevented them from entertaining proposals for liberalizing rules on vacation home rentals or considering (not necessarily approving) applications for marijuana grow facilities, among other things.

Commissioner Doug Monger said that, technically, a rural Routt County resident on a large acreage who bases a small construction business with a large truck and a backhoe at their residence, for example, is in conflict with the master plan.

“If we live up to the letter of the law (and considering) the restricted development community in Steamboat Springs — I don’t know; I think we’re looking to a change in the waters,” Monger said.

Some of the board’s frustration stems from the reluctance of the city of Steamboat Springs to annex land that would accommodate growth near to the urban center. Commissioner Cari Hermacinski, a former city council member, has previously sought to explore whether there is private sector interest in creating new subdivisions that might be built in the urban growth boundary surrounding Steamboat’s west side. But without annexation by the city, that would be viewed as allowing urban sprawl under the county’s master plan.

“I think (the plan) is a little dated and prevents us from doing some things — how to grow without sprawl if the city is not going to annex,” Hermacinski said.

She told Phillips she’d like to know if boards of county commissioners in other jurisdictions have the latitude to consider the totality of pertinent circumstances and decide whether the goals of the county would be better served by approving some exceptions to the provisions of the master plan.

The current plan was adopted by the Routt County Planning Commission and ratified by the Routt County Board of County Commissioners in an era when Nancy Stahoviak and Dan Ellison were on the board and, coincidentally, Monger was taking his turn in the rotation as chairman of the board.

The county planning director in 2003 was Caryn Fox, and Phillips was the assistant director at the time.

With regard to the development of new housing in the county, the plan calls for “diverse housing opportunities” to be available to county residents “in designated growth centers” only.

The master plan identifies Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Oak Creek and Yampa as the existing growth centers in the county. But it also says the unincorporated communities of Steamboat Lake, Phippsburg, Milner, Hahn’s Peak, Clark, Toponas and McCoy could also become growth centers with the adoption of comprehensive plans and adequate transportation arteries and if the areas gained the fiscal capacity to provide essential services to new residents.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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