Steamboat Springs Proposed growth management Amendment 24 is either a flawed document fraught with ambiguities that could leave it tied up in legal battles for years or a bold plan to return the planning process to local elected officials and their constituents.
Those were the positions staked out by Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison, debating against the amendment, and former Denver planning director Bill Lamont, speaking in favor of the measure, in front of about 50 people at Olympian Hall Thursday night.
"Amendment 24 would bring elected officials and citizens to the front of the planning process where they should be, instead of reacting to individual projects," Lamont said.
Ellison said the language of Amendment 24 leaves too much room for varying interpretations, and that could leave local governments waiting for years to learn the resolution of court fights.
"I think that 24 is well intended," Ellison said. "But is it well-enough drawn to ensure we won't spend a lot of time going to court to make sure what it says?"
Lamont opened the debate by praising Steamboat Springs and Routt County for the comprehensive planning they have already put in place.
"Routt County and Steamboat are ahead of the curve," Lamont said. "Amendment 24 reinforces what you've already done."
But Lamont cautioned that the progress made in the Yampa Valley could be undone if there is a change in the political breezes.
"I don't know if you understand how fragile your situation is," Lamont said.
He explained that a turnover in one member of the Board of County Commissioners or two to three members of the City Council could alter implementation of existing growth management plans here.
Amendment 24 would add teeth to back up existing comprehensive plans, he said.
Ellison pointed to the expense and effort that has gone into local master plans all over Routt County.
He urged local voters to vote against Amendment 24 and to support county resolution 2C, which anticipates passage of Amendment 24, and acts on one of its provisions, which allows counties with populations between 10,000 and 20,000 to opt out of the growth management measure for four years.
"We believe the community has worked hard and adapted plans at least give them a four-year shot" and see how 24 fares in the legal system, Ellison said.
Lamont told his audience that Amendment 24 makes no attempt to tell local areas whether they should grow. Instead, he said, it gives local voters the right to approve or deny a growth map prepared by their own elected officials.
Amendment 24 does not give the voters power over individual developments but over the fate of the growth map prepared by their elected representatives, he said.
Ellison said his interpretation of Amendment 24 tells him it could result in voters in Steamboat swaying the outcome of Hayden planning initiatives and vice-versa. That's because most of the new growth areas are likely to be mapped outside existing incorporated areas, he said, resulting in the need for a countywide vote on plans specific to areas such as Oak Creek and Hayden.
"I'm not sure how much folks in Steamboat are buying into the Hayden Town Plan, or how much people in Hayden are buying into the Steamboat plan, but either group could sway the outcome," of an Amendment 24 election, Ellison said.
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