Consultant sought for area plan

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— After consulting more than 100 residents at a two-day kickoff event in November, the city and county will now go outside the Steamboat bubble for some professional consulting about the Steamboat Springs Community Area Plan.

The Routt County Commissioners approved the request for proposals Monday and the Steamboat Springs City Council will be asked tonight if it wants to go ahead with the RFP drafted by city and county planning staff.

The city will have to decide in the next few months how much it wants to outsource the work and how much can be done by city staff. Some City Council members, including departed council president Kevin Bennett, have implied the city should do more of the work in-house than previously anticipated to save the city some money.

County planner Chad Phillips, who initially drew up a draft RFP last year and helped amend it in the past month, said the county did not take a vote on the RFP but did show support for it and pushed him to go ahead.

City planner Tom Leeson said the city's budget for the consultants has not yet been finalized and could be cut heavily based on economic indicators. The city held off on approving a $50,000 expenditure in its budget talks this year and will take the issue up again in the spring.

So far, the city has received grants in the amount of $70,000 to help pay for the update. It received a $60,000 grant to pay for to help offset the costs for transportation studies and a $10,000 grant to fund historic preservation efforts in conjunction with the plan.

The area plan touches on such issues as growth management, historic preservation and economic sustainability, serving as a document for both the city and county to reference in making policy decisions and analyzing development permits, among other things. The plan was initially drawn up in 1995 and has not been revised since.

Just as it did with its newly adopted Community Development Code, the city will be utilizing the expertise of planning consultants to make sure its area plan is as comprehensive as it can be and is in line with other such plans. The consultant can also act as an intermediary in heated debates, Leeson said.

"It's important to have the expertise of a consultant who can provide us with what's happening around the state and the rest of the country," Leeson said.

"They're able to offer a neutral, unbiased position on growth and other issues."

Through the initial forum, working groups were formed composed of local residents and city and county representatives. The participants were randomly placed in issue committees and will help the city and county draft the plan through research and discussion. People can still join the groups by calling the city at 879-2060 and asking for the planning department, Leeson said.

The city will have a final report on the November community meetings out by Friday.

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