Steamboat Springs As voters decide issues of local control in today's election, the City Council will be demonstrating local control in action as it meets tonight to review, among other things, five Planning Commission referrals.
The marquee item on the list will likely be a revised planning fee schedule, which would charge developers what the planning department believes are more equitable fees for planning department services.
The new fees would push items such as minor development permits from $125 up to $800 and rezone requests from $125 to $2,000. In addition, the applicants will have to pay for research completed by the planning department for projects that require excessive work based on a fee schedule to be decided by Planning Director Wendie Schulenberg.
Councilman Paul Strong had a premonition of confronting "a roomful of angry developers" on this issue, though none actually showed up at the first reading of the new fees. After hearing of the possible changes, however, a number of developers have said they will present their arguments against the new fees at this meeting. The fee structure that will be presented to council tonight is actually slightly different from the one presented at the first reading on Oct. 19.
Each of the costs has been lowered from the planning department's original estimates. Those reductions in the final fees, such as lowering the minor permit fee from $875 to $800, however, are relatively slight given the degree of the overall increases.
Steamboat's current fees bring in only about $75,000 to the city, some of which is eaten up by traffic study costs, among other necessary activities. That recoups less than 10 percent of the planning department's costs for its work on these private development applications, Schulenberg said. The public must pay for these costs, which include salary and overhead costs, with tax dollars.
To Schulenberg, the fee is as much about philosophical issues as it is about fiscal ones. Should taxpayers pay for a service that benefits the interests of a select few?
"While some municipal services such as road repairs, snow plowing, etc., are considered benefits to the general public and thus are expected to be borne by the public agency and paid for by taxes, the development review process only benefits a certain segment of the community," Schulenberg wrote. "This poses an important philosophical question of whether general tax dollars should be used to confer a service to only a few, who generally economically benefit from the service."
Another of the Planning Commission referrals going in front of City Council tonight that has drawn controversy is a project called Blackhawk Townhomes. Formerly know as Flat Top Townhomes, the project received more than just a name change after it got rejected by City Council on May 16 by a vote of 4-2. To some council members, the architecture of Flat Tops was too dissimilar from that of the surrounding area.
They cited the city's architectural design guidelines as their reason for rejecting the project.
Other City Council members, such as Jim Engelken, were uncomfortable with the decision to reject the project on architectural grounds. Engelken objected to a decision he believed was based primarily on "taste."
But Ron and Elizabeth Young are not taking "no" for an answer when it comes to this proposed development off Eagleridge Drive.
This time, the Youngs and their architects, Scott Myller and Katie Kiefer, of West Elevation Architects, have modified the structures to blend in with neighboring townhomes, which include the Cascades at Eagleridge and Trappeur's Crossing.
The architects have modified the buildings to a degree they think will appease the Planning Commission and City Council. They have replaced the flat roofs with sloped ones and the copper siding with cedar siding. The new development will also have a concrete block base.
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