Steamboat Planning Commission could grant final approval to some development applications under proposed change
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs City Council will consider allowing the city’s Planning Commission to grant final approval for some development applications.
On Tuesday, City Council will discuss the second reading of an ordinance that would allow the Planning Commission to approve or deny applications for conditional use permits, conceptual development plans, preliminary plats and development plans that require a public hearing. City Council would retain authority over applications requesting major variances.
If the changes were adopted, the Planning Commission would be able to decide to approve or deny these applications, which are currently decided by the City Council. Any member of the public or council would have 10 days from a Planning Commission decision to request the application is “called up” or referred to City Council for review and possible approval.
City Council approved the ordinance five to two on first reading at its July 2 meeting, with council members Sonja Macys and Heather Sloop opposed.
The proposed change was the result of Planning Commission work sessions that aimed to find ways to reduce the number of public hearings required for certain development approvals.
Macys has previously expressed concern that the proposed change would decrease transparency in the planning approval process. Last Tuesday, she voiced another worry — that she believed the change should be made not by ordinance, but by amending the city’s charter.
The city’s charter establishes the Planning Commission as an advisory agency, which limits City Council’s ability to delegate final decision-making to the commission, according to a memo introducing the ordinance at the July 2 meeting. According to the memo, the call-up procedures, which allow City Council to grant final approval, satisfies “the spirit of the Charter limitation.”
Other City Council members disagreed. Council President Pro-Tem Kathi Meyer said the city attorney advised the council the proposed change was not in violation of the charter, as long as there was a call-up provision.
What: Steamboat Springs City Council meeting
When: 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 16
Where: Citizens’ Meeting Room in Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.
Other items on the agenda include:
- Health and wellness in community support funding
- Discussion on a ballot question to fund fire and emergency services in the city
- A report from the consultant studying a new chairlift alignment on Howelsen Hill
- First reading of an ordinance repealing the city’s community housing code, commonly referred to as inclusionary zoning
- A motion that would allow a change in ownership and ownership structure of Rocky Mountain Remedies dispensary
- Second reading of an ordinance that would allow the Municipal Court Clerk to accept payments for citations issued for animals at large and unlicensed animals.
Macys again expressed concern in getting information about the change to the public and about how it would impact the development review process.
“This is a community process that affects not only the developers who are going through the process, but the community,” Macys said. “The whole process of how they understand what we’re doing changes.”
She sought an explanation of how the city would make the public aware of the changes.
Meyer, who served on the Planning Commission for two terms before winning her City Council seat, said many communities make these types of decisions administratively, without a public hearing.
“When I look at the sections that we’re changing, we’re really looking at those items that are very minor administrative functions, and that’s my expectation,” she told Macys. “If there’s something that you feel you need to call up, you have that absolute right.”
“As does any member of the public,” Council President Jason Lacy said.
“As does any member of the public, which is different than it is right now,” Meyer continued. “We’re actually broadening the public’s ability to express a concern.”
Both the council and Planning and Community Development Director Rebecca Bessey said they planned to take actions to get more information to the public about Planning Commission decisions. These include ideas such as posting information about development applications in front of properties sooner, sharing meeting recaps on social media and adding City Council and Planning Commission meeting documents to the Planning Department’s current projects map.
If approved as written, the ordinance would take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, with the intention that it would give the city time to educate the public about the change.
To view the City Council’s previous discussion on this topic, visit steamboatsprings.net/agendas.
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