Steamboat City Council, commissioners reconsidering growth in area |

Steamboat City Council, commissioners reconsidering growth in area

City Council, commissioners to discuss urban growth boundary

— The Steamboat Springs City Council and the Routt County Board of Commissioners meet at 5 p.m. today in a joint meeting to decide whether to temporarily put the urban growth boundary on ice, but the discussion also is a precursor to tackling the larger Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan later this year.

The community plan is a set of guiding principles for each of seven neighborhoods within the county that ring the city limits.

The urban growth boundary, or UGB, was a foundation of the community plan when it first was approved in 1995 and was affirmed by the community at large when the plan was last revised in 2004.

“The UGB was the most important aspect of the community plan,” County Com­­missioner Diane Mitsch Bush said Monday. “It has given us predictability and stability.”

Essentially, the UGB has served to encourage infill development and close-in development to Steamboat Springs while raising a high bar of approval for anyone hoping to develop outside the boundary.

Property owners and would-be developers have been free under the community plan to apply for an addition to the urban growth boundary. A number have tried, but none have succeeded.

Council members and commissioners can be expected to talk tonight about whether it’s fair to suspend consideration of any new UGB proposals while the community plan is in a state of flux this year, or whether to create a new preliminary process requiring the city and county planning staffs to manage expectations before property owners invest heavily in the process.

“Some people spent a lot of money in the past and no one has succeeded,” Commissioner Doug Monger said.

He added that he thinks the criteria that require developments outside the existing boundary to provide overall public benefit as well as generating sufficient revenues to offset the cost of providing government services precludes anyone from successfully petitioning for addition to the UGB.

The last rounds of UGB petitions in 2008 were rejected primarily because the community plan calls for the UGB to be built out before the community expands it, according to a city planning report. Yet, the 1,000 acres within the UGB and outside the city limits have yet to be developed.

Monger and Mitsch Bush agreed that had the community plan been updated on schedule in 2009, it probably would not have fit current conditions.

City Councilwoman Meg Bentley said it’s important to revisit the community plan in 2011.

Bentley said Monday that she thinks the process of revisiting the community plan is the appropriate forum for local government, and particularly the city, to return to its constituents and seek to understand the implications of the March 2010 rejection of the Steamboat 700 annexation agreement. The proposed development would have resulted in development of new ground within the UGB.

“I do think it’s time to go back to the community and ask what they think about how growth should happen, or if it should happen,” Bentley said. “The 700 decision showed we’re very divided (on that issue), but I don’t think it was a black-and-white question of no growth. That was about the way that growth would have happened.”

–— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or e-mail

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