Steamboat Springs A Wednesday night meeting on rural sprawl was a wake-up call to anyone who thinks Routt County is immune from the traffic, health and environmental plagues of casual development.
"The West is fast becoming a place that old-timers don't recognize," Sierra Club's "Divide and Conquer" video, shown at the meeting, stated. "Piece by piece, the wild is being whittled away."
The momentum behind sprawl poorly planned, scattered development is driven by banks which finance it, developers who build it, and a population that has been ingrained to think sprawl is the only manner in which human habitats progress, the video stated.
This ingrained thinking is not true, panel members at Wednesday night's meeting agreed. As residents of Colorado, people have a choice in the future development of the area, they said.
County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak, County Planning Director Caryn Fox, City Councilman Ken Brenner, Transit Manager George Krawzoff, Regional Affordable Living Foundation (RALF)'s Ellen Hd Yampa Valley Land Trust Executive Director Susan Otis made up the panel.
Each panel member answered two questions: What are the biggest challenges facing the area in terms of rural sprawl, and what are some possible solutions to these challenges?
The sources and problems associated with encroaching sprawl in Routt County are apparently complex and diverse.
"The strong economy is a driving factor," Otis said.
"Keeping large acreages agricultural is a huge challenge," Stahoviak said.
The Agriculture Alliance is an organization formed to help keep agriculture producers and businesses ensure agriculture remain viable in Routt County; this in and of itself is a great challenge, Stahoviak added.
Sprawl is also seriously threatening wildlife and its habitats, Fox said on behalf of Elizabeth Miller, the local Divison of Wildlife officer.
Fox said residents need to increase their education and awareness of surrounding wildlife, and take individual and public responsibility to help their subdivisions deal with wildlife.
Regional transportation is also a particularly complicated issue.
"I am very proud of the environmental and social benefits our transit system provides," Krawzoff said. "It remains the right thing to do, because in the future we can develop around transit nodes. For today, however, it may actually be facilitating sprawl."
The city code also needs to be rewritten to reflect the community's desires, as indicated by the Community Survey, Brenner said.
Concentrating development density around transit nodes, for example is another challenge the county must face.
Acknowledging the sensitive nature of the issue, Otis suggested a lack of tackling human population growth problems in a political realm is also a problem.
"'Issuing fewer invitations to the next generation will make certain that those who attend will have a better time,'" Otis quoted Margaret Mead.
Panel members and residents in attendance seemed to agree on some general solutions to these challenges.
"The only way to solve these problems is if we come together as a community," Stahoviak said. Most panel members echoed her sentiments.
Community turnout to the meeting was relatively low especially in light of recent community survey results.
Over one-half of residents surveyed believe Steamboat's rate of growth is unacceptable, or very unacceptable, according to the 1999-2000 Steamboat Springs Community Survey. Eighty percent believe Steamboat should control its rate of growth.
Steamboat native Tatum Heath mused, "This room should be packed. Where are all these residents who are concerned about Steamboat's rate of growth? Where's the next generation? Who, other than the panel, will be the people in the community who take the initiative to find solutions to these challenges?"
If you missed the video, or would like to view it again, contact Deb Fuller at Yampatika at 871-9151.
To contact Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4205 or email email@example.com