Water, transportation remain key concerns for West Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Water, transportation remain key concerns for West Steamboat

In this Routt County Planning Department graphic, the red outline designates the West Steamboat planning area, where the county is asking for feedback from the community. The green parcels are privately owned but could be part of future growth.
Routt County/Courtesy image

Residents joined planners and consultants during the West Steamboat Virtual Open House last week — part of the process to update the Routt County Master Plan – to discuss their interests and concerns ranging from water supplies to a new grocery store.

Routt County Planning Director Kristy Winser explained on the Feb. 2 meeting over Zoom that discussion topics would cover growth, services, land use, mobility and short-term rentals.

Currently, county staff are working to update the existing West Steamboat Springs Area Plan that was completed in June 2006 and includes 540 acres in addition to the 536-acre Brown Ranch parcel.

With up to 35 people on the call, including staff and consultants, the organizers conducted Zoom polls and showed maps incorporating urban growth and West Steamboat planning boundaries, as well as some possible areas for future growth.

Winser said the county hosted specific input meetings for the Stagecoach and West Steamboat areas because they were previously indicated as capable of handling future growth because the surrounding infrastructure can support higher density.

“Water concerns have been one of the top concerns for all county residents,” Winser explained of key issues as the community expands.

Meeting organizers said existing plans have served the county well but need to be updated to address current issues and changing demographics. The master plan was last updated in 2003, yet between 2000 and 2018, the county population grew by 30%.

Outreach efforts for the plan update started in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the process. The planning department is guiding the draft of an updated plan through grant support from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and contracted planning consultant Cushing Terrell from Denver.

One clear message from the West Steamboat meeting, based on options provided in the Zoom polls, was 90% of participants expressed a desire for a new grocery store on the west side of the city, which has been discussed as an option at Brown Ranch. Participants suggested a smaller grocery store similar in scope to Hayden Mercantile or perhaps a satellite second location of one of the existing grocery stores in Steamboat that might grow through time.

Another strong message was continued support for the extension of the Yampa River Core Trail west to support both recreation and transportation needs.

“We have heard such an outpouring of support for extension of the Core Trail,” Winser said. “Transportation has been one of the highest priorities for the community at large.”

Multiple participants questioned whether the proposed extension path was the best physical route. The projected route shows the trail extending to Sleepy Bear Mobile Home Park, then running north in a tunnel under U.S. Highway 40, through Brown Ranch and then to the northeast side of the Silver Spur neighborhood.

Residents asked if the trail extension could stay closer to the highway and the Yampa River, although planners cited higher costs and geographic concerns to do so.

Another poll showed 83% of participants support continuing the county’s policy banning short-term rentals, while 17% said those rentals might be added in designated areas with strengthened enforcement.

Other participants asked if future growth from the Brown Ranch project might extend directly north from Brown Ranch because some of that land sits inside the West Steamboat Plan boundary but is not included in the urban growth boundary.

Additional questions were raised from participants advocating for more comprehensive water conservation measures and limiting light pollution in new county growth areas.

“The city has robust design criteria for development plans, but the county does not. So, design criteria should be a consideration as we go through this master plan update process,” Winser explained Monday.

The county conducted a community survey last fall with 925 Routt County residents responding.

Of those, 70% resided in Steamboat Springs, 14% in South Routt, 8% from West Routt and 7% from North Routt.

The results are posted online on the master plan information website, NavigateYourRoutt.com, which also includes an online form for continued input. Recordings of the Stagecoach and West Steamboat virtual meetings are also posted online.

The major takeaways from the community engagement efforts so far, as listed on NavigateYourRoutt.com, include residents’ concerns about preservation of open lands and protection of water, sense of community and opportunities, such as for jobs, entertainment and recreation. The strongest concerns include overuse of recreational areas, traffic, housing, sprawl, and water and resources.

Winser said the updated master plan should be released in a draft format this spring, along with a chance for more public comment. The plan should be complete sometime this summer.

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