Routt County commissioners reflect on findings of housing steering committee

Routt County Board of Commissioners

— The Routt County Board of Commissioners agreed Dec. 19 that the city of Steamboat Springs needs to confront significant changes in current regulations if the two governments are to be effective in reducing the area’s housing shortfall.

Commission Chairwoman Cari Hermacinski ventured to say that the city needs to consider expanding the boundaries of the urban growth boundary and revise residential subdivision regulations that require 15 percent open space. She also called out design guidelines that prohibit uniformity of home design, a strategy that is commonly used to bring down tract home prices.

“It’s not the time (to obtain a permit) that’s driving the cost,” Hermacinski said. “It’s all the things that are heaped on you. The city’s design guidelines are horrendous. You can’t build 10 homes that look alike under the design guidelines because it doesn’t look pretty when you drive through the neighborhood.”

Hermacinski’s comments came during an informal follow-up to a Dec. 13 City Council meeting where the citizens housing steering committee reported its findings on what’s needed to facilitate significant growth in housing stock. She has taken on the task of writing a summation of the county’s reaction to the report on behalf of her fellow commissioners.

“One thing I think the city and county ought to look at is expanding the urban growth boundary,” Hermacinski said. “The Steamboat 700 property has all the land in the UGB.”

She cited a large parcel north of 13th Street and the existing Fairview neighborhood that might be appropriate for new housing development but isn’t under consideration because it’s outside the UGB.

Commissioner Doug Monger agreed that the majority of the community’s hopes for quickly creating new housing stock is bound up in the Steamboat 700 parcel now being considered by Brynn Grey for development of the “west Steamboat neighborhoods,” where the cost of developing municipal water infrastructure is an impediment moving forward.

“Nothing’s going to happen until we figure out this water situation,” Monger said.

Hermacinski, who served on City Council throughout the lengthy public hearings over the fate of an annexation agreement for Steamboat 700, didn’t see it that way.

“I contend the city has plenty of water for growth, having been through it before,” she said. There would be sufficient water if the city “implemented some serious water conservation measures.”

The housing steering committee urged the city and the county to reduce the time it takes for developers to obtain a permit by 25 percent.

Hermacinski pointed out this week that the county has already achieved a 25 percent reduction in the time required to obtain a building permit through the implementation of software that allows multiple officials to review applications simultaneously.

Commissioner Tim Corrigan said the ice-jam in the development of community housing won’t be broken until governments solve the riddle of funding public infrastructure.

“Somebody needs to sit down and determine how much money it’s going to take to realize these goals,” he said. “I don’t think that’s our job, is it?”

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

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