For 90 days, as the clock ticked on the planning department's major development permit moratorium, Planning Director Wendie Schulenberg hustled to hire three people and somehow keep up with her day-to-day work schedule. On Monday morning, the clock stopped.
Schulenberg was only successful in the hiring of two out of the three positions. She hired a planning technician during the summer and recently filled a "Planner 1" position. That planner is expected to begin working on Nov. 6. The one position still open is the assistant director's spot, which has remained vacant for more than a year now. Schulenberg spent all day Monday interviewing candidates for the assistant director's position. Those candidates include in-house planner Scott Woodford.
The moratorium on major development permit applications that began Aug. 7 was established through an emergency City Council ordinance. The ordinance was passed July 18 as an attempt to deal with a personnel shortage in the planning department. It affected developers seeking permits to build new commercial buildings, residential subdivisions, condominium and townhome projects and industrial buildings, among others. Now, 13 developments are in line to be processed. The planning department established a waiting list on Aug. 7 for projects that required applicants to submit a preliminary proposal.
One of the reasons that the list of developments is so long, Schulenberg said, is that developers were rushing to get their applications in before Coloradans vote on Amendment 24 this November. Applications submitted before Sept. 13 would be exempt from the ramifications of the amendment.
The amendment would force local governments to develop "Growth Area Maps" that they would have to present to voters. The growth area maps would include impact studies on parks and schools in addition to a number of other elements. Development in cities like Steamboat could be severely curtailed depending on the outcome of the vote.
In Steamboat Springs, applicants must submit a completed application within seven days of the close of the moratorium to keep their spot in line. Otherwise, they will move to the end of the list when they get their application in.
Only one applicant, Mountain Architecture, had sent in a completed application as of Monday afternoon, said staff assistant Kathy Widmann.
Last month, Councilman Ken Brenner proposed extending the moratorium to allow the planning department time to catch up, but revised his proposal recently. He proposed a growth management plan last Tuesday at a City Council meeting to limit the number of permits accepted. He said worries that the planning department, which also is supposed to draft a new development code by January 2001, is too busy with development permit applications to deal with the new code or to handle other administrative business.
One issue the new code would address is to simplify the process of dealing with things like minor development permits, which the department could handle through an administrative process as opposed to using the lengthy Planning Commission and City Council review process.
The planning department already has dealt with 248 permits so far this year, including the wait-list permits. Even with the 90-day break, that's close to last year's total of 277.
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