Routt County tables transfer of development rights program
Steamboat Springs — The Routt County Board of Commissioners agreed Thursday night to take the draft transfer of development rights regulations off life support.
“We definitely need this to have a painless and quick death,” Commissioner Doug Monger said.
TDR has been regarded by some as an innovative planning tool to concentrate development close to urban areas and by others as a vague invitation to encourage urban sprawl. The point seems moot after a joint meeting of the commissioners and their planning commission this week.
The transfer of development rights regulations would have conserved outlying rural parcels by shifting development potential to designated areas close to the city limits through a private sale of development rights between landowners.
“The more I study this, the more I think the county is not in the development business,” Planning Commission Chairman Jay Gallagher said Thursday.
The regulations had been more than two years in development. But the county took the project on a road show to sample public opinion in summer after the Steamboat Springs City Council expressed concerns about the scope of the plan. It could have created as many as 250 5-acre home lots ringing the city limits to the west and north, where development rights purchased away from more rural parcels could have been transferred.
“The way the different regulations were written was just way too loose and could have (led to) unintended consequences,” said Paul Stettner, of the Yampa Valley Community Alliance.
Monger acknowledged that the changing economy combined with city voters’ rejection of annexation of the Steamboat 700 development west of Steamboat had changed his perception of the new regulations.
“Absolutely, I had a change of heart,” Monger said.
He said the transfer program was just one of three planning tools being considered in 1998 when the county revised its Open Lands Plan. Since then, the county has put in Land Preservation Subdivision regulations, and voters have approved and widened the scope of a Purchase of Development Rights program that uses property taxes to conserve agricultural lands and wildlife habitat.
The commissioners had explored TDR in 2008 and 2009 at Alpine Mountain Ranch, just south of Steamboat. The developers’ permit allowed them to add as many as 20 buildable lots if they could successfully purchase the development rights off a nearby agricultural property, which they did.
“The concept of TDR is important and should not be lost in mountain communities,” Alpine Mountain Ranch Chief Operating Officer Bill Reid said Friday. “Property values are improved when a community works together to maintain rural landscapes.”
However, Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said that after taking part in community TDR meetings in South Routt and reading the meeting minutes from North and west Routt, she doesn’t see a future for the program unless the municipalities in Routt County come to future boards of commissioners and ask for help implementing a similar program in their area.
“The TDR receiving area would only allow us to conserve 1,000 acres of land,” Stahoviak said. “I think the brain damage we would go through to get there is probably not worth it.”
Stettner said he was satisfied with the outcome of the meeting.
“I was pretty well pleased at the way Planning Commission spoke and the commissioners listened,” he said.
Despite writing the epitaph for the program, Monger said he might look at TDR proposals on a case-by-case basis in the future.
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