Routt County’s updated master plan ready for public comment

Outreach efforts engaged about 1,200 locals on the future of the county

Mt. Werner and Steamboat Ski Resort loom over snow covered fields in Routt County in 2021. Balancing growth brought on in part by expansion of tourism locally while maintaining the area's agricultural heritage is at the center of Routt County's updated Master Plan.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

After more than a year of work that included open houses, online surveys, technical consultants and input from roughly 1,200 residents, Routt County’s new Master Plan is ready for public scrutiny.

Work to update the county’s nearly two-decade old master plan actually dates back to before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly 1,000 residents responding to a community survey in 2019.

After being put on hold in 2020, outreach to update — but not overhaul — the plan was rebooted last August and has been ongoing since. Last week, Routt County released a draft version of the plan and is now asking residents to comment on the roughly 130-page document that hopes to guide Routt County through the next two decades of growth.

The plan seeks to walk a delicate line of outlining how Routt County will accommodate population and job growth without jeopardizing its storied agricultural heritage in the process, two competing themes at the heart of the document.

“The general goal of the plan is to ensure the rural character is maintained while accommodating appropriate growth,” the plan reads. “The plan is regarded as a living document. Should conditions in the county change significantly, the plan can, and should be amended.”

Like the previous rendition of the plan approved in 2003, the update identifies where growth should be targeted in Routt County. But the new version takes another step by breaking down these growth areas into three tiers.

This map identifies desired growth areas in Routt County, breaking them down into three different tiers.
Routt County Master Plan/Screenshot

Tier One areas are within the city limits of the county’s four municipalities, with the county considering infill development with access to existing infrastructure and community services the “principal growth strategy.”

“Future growth is specifically directed to these key areas rather that to rural areas of the county,” the plan reads. 

The plan says that developments in these Tier One areas should provide “diverse, mixed-income housing options,” have “walkable and bikeable residential development patterns,” and access to “safe multi-modal transportation.”

Tier Two areas are in unincorporated parts of the county that could also accommodate growth. They include West Steamboat Springs, Stagecoach and land identified in Hayden’s Three-Mile Plan. These areas either have — or have the ability to build — infrastructure that accommodates this growth.

The plan uses Stagecoach as an example of this, as it already has an approved sub-area plan, platted lots, zoning for high-density development and a special district to support infrastructure needs.

Tier Three areas are identified as the smaller unincorporated communities in Routt County including: Steamboat Lake, Phippsburg, Milner, Toponas, Hahns Peak and Clark. 

The plan says potential developments in these areas need to focus on local resident needs and would be determined on a case-by-case basis depending on whether infrastructure is available and if they align with other community development plans in place.

“Future growth shall be managed in keeping with the agricultural character, open space and rural landscapes,” the plan reads. “New development shall be accommodated based on available resources and infrastructure capabilities and services.”

Other chapters of the plan focus on housing, the local economy, transportation, recreation, tourism, open space, sustainability, climate actions, natural resources and public health, among others. Each chapter has a goal, looks at trends related to the topic and outlines several policies to guide decision-making. Some of these policies are carried over from the 2003 plan, but many are also new.

The public comment period on the plan will remain open until Friday, July 22. Comments can be sent via email to

At 6 p.m. on Aug. 4, Routt County’s Board of Commissioners and Planning Commission will hold a joint public meeting, where the public will have another opportunity to comment on the updated plan and commissioners will discuss comments they have received.

The planning commission and county commissioners will then consider approving and ratifying the updated plan at hearings scheduled for Aug. 18 and Aug. 30, respectively.

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