Tuesday, February 27, 2001
Steamboat Springs After fielding a barrage of comments at a Feb. 1 public meeting about regulations that would end construction on certain hills and ridges, the County Commission and the Planning Commission will regroup during a work session Thursday.
"What we hope to get out of Thursday is finding out where we go from here," County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.
The draft regulations identify scenic hills and ridges as those without any mountains behind them and one-quarter-mile to three miles off U.S. 40, Colorado 131, Colo. 134 or certain county roads. The regulations state that no house proposed to be built on those hills or ridges will receive a building permit unless the building site is moved out of the skyline or it is mitigated for visual impact.
The first thing officials will have to determine is if the public supports the draft regulations.
Most of the comments heard at the Feb. 1 public meeting were from those against the skyline rules. But Planning Commission Chairman Troy Brookshire said those people weren't supporting skyline construction.
"I don't think I heard anyone say that they wanted to build a big house looming over the valley," he said.
Instead, the comments came from people opposing government restrictions on private land.
Also, there is a fear that the regulations will hurt property values.
"You do pay more for land with a view. If you take the rights away to build on that area, you are taking away the value of the land," property owner John Shaw said at the Feb. 1 meeting.
Brookshire said he doesn't believe that would happen. Local developers in the last few years have mitigated the environmental impact of some subdivisions. A land preservation subdivision, for example, clusters homesites together instead of on 35-acre lots and sets aside ample green space that can be used for agriculture or wildlife habitat. Those properties haven't suffered in value because of those changes, Brookshire said.
Similarly, mitigating for visual impact shouldn't devalue property and it could protect value, he said.
"I do believe if all of the skylines are built on with houses, then you would have a diminution in property value," Brookshire said.
The reality is that the people against the regulations wouldn't build in the skyline, Brookshire believes. However, the people who they could eventually sell their land to might. If that happens, an adjacent property owner could feel the financial impact of skyline building.
County officials also aren't ignoring public concern about houses in the skyline voiced when area community plans were being developed.
Brookshire said that for the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan alone, there were more than 60 public meetings held to get a sense of the community's values and skyline building concerns were expressed.
"It has come out as a concern," Stahoviak said. "Now we have to address the concern."
But that may not be as easy as it sounds.
"We have to quantify those concerns," Commissioner Doug Monger said.
When community plans like those for the Upper Elk River, Stagecoach and Steamboat were put together, the county accepted that the public was worried about the issue. However, Monger explained, it remains to be seen how strong that concern is and if it warrants skyline regulations. Plus, some concerns could have been expressed from landowners who feared that skyline construction could be taken away, he said.
Officials will look at different alternatives with the regulations. They will consider mitigation guidelines, such as lowering the structure or using nonreflective materials, to give builders an option when building in the skyline. Officials also will consider having regulations only apply in certain areas of the county.
Public comment will not be heard at the meeting on the skyline issue.