Steamboat Planning Commission seeks to make urban growth boundary expansion possible |

Steamboat Planning Commission seeks to make urban growth boundary expansion possible

Michael Schrantz

— The documents that govern the city of Steamboat Springs’ plans for growth still reflect the time period when the push westward was a driving factor, and the urban growth boundary that was defined in the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan is no exception.

“The problem with this UGB is we were focused on west Steamboat,” said Steamboat Springs Planning Commission member Rich Levy.

The urban growth boundary is a line on a map in the Area Community Plan that separates the “land suitable for urban development from rural land,” according to city of Steamboat Springs Planning Department staff.

Since the original plan in 1995, the boundary has changed slightly with updates to the Area Community Plan, but of the at least 11 applications since 2004 to change the boundary for individual properties, none has been approved.

During a joint meeting of the Steamboat Springs City Council and Routt County Board of Commissioners in September, the bodies directed staff to review the criteria for expanding the urban growth boundary.

The Planning Commission’s work session was to give feedback to staff on topics that arose during the joint meeting.

Of the five criteria that are used to determine whether a change in the urban growth boundary should be made, the majority of the Planning Commission thought only two items still should apply: that the proposed amendment is consistent with goals and policies contained in the Area Community Plan and that the amendment is a logical change to the urban growth boundary.

The other three items — which include determination of public benefit, reasonable accommodation with surrounding land uses and land suitability — are best left for the annexation process, according to members of the commission.

The effect would be to make the criteria for expanding the urban growth boundary more reliant on the overall vision of the Area Community Plan, and the process for adding territory to the city would shift into two more distinct parts.

A property must have its application to expand the urban growth boundary approved before it can move forward with the city’s annexation process, but currently, the criteria used to weigh both processes is overlapping.

The work to prepare for the annexation process is significant, according to Planning Department Director Tyler Gibbs.

Making the first step of expanding the urban growth boundary a more vision-based discussion could inform an applicant whether the land would be considered suitable before he or she invests in the annexation process.

Planning Commission member Brian Hanlen said the original boundary was drawn incorrectly. Its tight fit along three sides of the city and a loose loop around the west makes it impossible for a project to fit the Area Community Plan’s requirement that all the available space within the boundary be utilized before expansion, he said.

The proper way to use the urban growth boundary as a planning tool, Hanlen said, would be to redraw the line in a fashion more realistic for today and revisit it on a regular basis to deliberately plan for growth.

But as the boundary currently stands, the process to allow applications for expansion on an individual basis is necessary, he said.

Al Rosenthal, who said he was at the joint meeting that brought up this discussion, said the two bodies “were looking for criteria not to make it easy but to make it possible” to expand the urban growth boundary.

“What we have done (Thursday night) is made it more possible,” said Planning Commission Chairman Jason Lacy.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

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