Survey shows open space, sense of community, diverse housing top Routt County’s priorities |

Survey shows open space, sense of community, diverse housing top Routt County’s priorities

Residents offer feedback as county officials look to craft new master plan

Steamboat Springs residents don’t just want affordable housing. They want a diverse housing stock with options for people at all points in their life.

Rural residents want more amenities, services and community development where they live, but they want that economic growth to be balanced.

Overall, Routt County residents want the next master plan to preserve open lands, protect water resources and maintain a sense of community, according to a survey conducted as part of the county’s master planning outreach. The results were presented to Routt County Board of Commissioners on Monday.

The survey is a piece of the county’s larger push to engage residents as Routt puts together the first rewrite of its master plan since 2003. About 925 residents from around the county took the survey, another 130 residents attended one of several open houses and more participated in several focus groups.

The hope is to have a draft master plan by sometime this summer.

About 70% of residents surveyed live in Steamboat or nearby communities, such as Steamboat II, Heritage Park and others close to town.

For this group, growing amenities and services west of Steamboat was important, especially with the prospect of the Brown Ranch developing over the next decade. Robin Schepper, Routt County public information officer, said some of the traffic issues that worry residents are due to a lack of services out west.

“A lot of our traffic is internal traffic,” Schepper said. “With the Brown Ranch and Sleeping Giant (School), is there more need for a grocery store and other services?”

Extending the Yampa River Core Trail, especially westward toward those communities, was also high on the list for this group. Schepper said several residents argued that the Yampa River Core Trail should be thought of as a transportation network, not just recreation.

“It’s so popular that commuters are almost forced off the trail and back onto the road network,” said a focus group member.

About 14% of survey responses were from South Routt with an equal share coming from North Routt and West Routt. Residents in these communities said developing things, such as early childhood education and youth services in their communities were important.

Survey results also show infrastructure is particularly important to these residents, and that means more than just broadband, Schepper said.

“It’s not just internet but making sure that we have data,” Schepper said, referring to cell phone service and the smaller receivers used to deliver it.

Routt County Planning Director Kristy Winser said many residents in rural parts of the county have pushed for a dig-once policy that would require conduit installation as part of public works projects, making it easier to install services in the future.

Residents across the county said they want alternative and expanded means of transportation within the county. Census data collected for the master plan shows that just 40% of Steamboat’s workers live in town, while large portions of Yampa (40%), Oak Creek (47%) and Hayden’s (36%) residents commute to work in Steamboat.

Steamboat is still the fastest growing part of the county, while much of South Routt has actually lost population since 2010. Planning staff are using a variety of various data points, such as median home prices and employment in various local industries, to guide the new plan as well.

For example, industries such as natural resources and mining have lost nearly 200 jobs since 2010, while jobs in leisure and hospitality have increased by more than 900. Mining now makes up about 2% of the total number of jobs in Routt County, where 22% of people work in hospitality, 19% in health and education services, and another 16% in transportation, trade and utilities.

When looking at how long survey respondents have lived in Steamboat, the largest proportions have been here between 4-10 years and longer than 26 years. One potential reason for that is the 4- to 10-year group is often forced out over time because there isn’t enough housing for them to grow into.

Dave Dixon, an urban planner with Cushing Terrell, the firm assisting the county with the plan, said they found this particularly interesting.

“That’s at that point where it is kind of make or break. You’re deciding whether or not you’re going to stay in Routt County for the rest of your life at that point,” Dixon said. “What are the challenges those folks face? … So we want to get a lot more information on that group.”

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