Waiting list 11 developers deep

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— The waiting list for permits in the wake of a city moratorium on major development approvals already is 11 projects long.

And while planning department personnel, and the developers at the top of the list, may see the 90-day break as a much-needed respite, some developers and architects are worried that the moratorium will hurt business in Steamboat Springs.

"The moratorium impacts everybody, not just developers and Realtors," said Jim Cook of Colorado Group Realty, whose 41 Eighth St. project landed at No. 7 on the waiting list. "It also impacts development permits for small businesses that need to expand."

Cook said he understands the need for the planning department to hire new people, but he remains concerned about the potential difficulties the moratorium may place on small businesses.

"If a business purchases property for a building or for a multi-family development of some kind, they're sitting on a lot of money on a piece of ground they can't use," he said.

One architect whose business will suffer because of the moratorium is Eric Smith of Eric Smith Associates. His Pine Grove project for a new, larger Ski Haus will be put on hold an entire year because of the moratorium, Smith said.

"We've had to scramble and restaff people on other projects," he said.

The moratorium on major development permit applications that began Aug. 7 was set forth in an emergency city ordinance. The City Council approved the ordinance July 18 as a way to deal with a personnel shortage in the city planning department.

It will affect developers seeking permits to build new commercial buildings, residential subdivisions, condominium and townhome projects and industrial buildings, among others. The moratorium will be in effect until Oct. 16. Waiting list applications in the form of preliminary development proposals were accepted beginning Aug. 7.

"The council felt that we needed the opportunity to get caught up and get back in normal processing mode," Planning Director Wendie Schulenberg said. "Right now we're down three positions an assistant planning director, a planner and a planning tech."

Training new personnel, said Schulenberg, will likely take the entire period of the moratorium. She has gone without an assistant since she started April 3.

Schulenberg responded to developers' concerns by explaining that the moratorium was meant to help the planning department to restaff, not to impact the economy.

"As far as I know, the council passed the ordinance not to slow growth, but to give us a chance to catch up. If they wanted to slow growth, they would have used more traditional measures to do so," Schulenberg said. Establishing limits on the number of development projects allowed and restricting the area of development were two of the "more traditional" ways the council could slow growth, Schulenberg said.

Some developers were unconcerned about any potential disruption caused by the moratorium.

"It hasn't been a big deal for us," said Jan Kaminski of Mountain Architecture, which holds the top three spots on the waiting list. The firm faxed in its applications at 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 7.

"The delay has the potential to cost every developer some money, but, at the same time, I understand the need for it," Kaminski said. "We want the (department) to get everything straightened out."

Schulenberg had not heard of any complaints about the moratorium as of Monday morning.

To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203 or e-mail asalzman@amigo.net

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