Area plan gains little attention

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— A meeting that would help define how new urban development west of Steamboat Springs would be run and financed did not garner much attention from landowners Wednesday.

Officials from the city and the county, and their consultants, met to discuss how the West of Steamboat Area Plan could be implemented and what financial burdens would have to be taken.

People who own land bordering the western edges of Steamboat were invited, but only a few showed up.

"The ones (property owners) that came were not interested in developing their property," said Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger.

"The one farmer that was there said we just as soon you never build out there."

City Manager Paul Hughes said he was a little surprised that the big landowners that would be most likely to develop didn't attend, but he insists that at least half of the landowners in west of Steamboat are still interested in development.

"We're not recruiting for development," Hughes said. "And this wasn't their only chance to participate."

Monger agreed.

"When the major players want to come in, they'll come in," Monger said.

"We're not promoting growth either; we're just hoping if it happens, it happens in the way the community planned it in the West of Steamboat plan."

The West of Steamboat plan details how 2,600 units could be eventually built and annexed into the city during the next 30 years. This area has been identified as the only reasonable area for urban density growth. The West of Steamboat plan also has an affordable housing component, requiring every third unit to be affordable housing.

A civil design consultant also released preliminary numbers on what it would cost to put in the major infrastructure to serve the new urban area. This includes streets and sewer and water lines.

For example, the first five years worth of infrastructure would cost about $3.1 million. The second, third and fourth phases over the next 20 years would cost about $2.7 million. Consultant Alden Fox stressed these were just preliminary numbers, based on a number of assumptions that haven't even occurred.

The big question answered Wednesday was how the county and city would oversee development.

For example, if a developer came in with a plan to build 75 homes, he most likely would need some sort of governing district to raise money.

City and county officials agreed the city should then organize a General Improvement District that covered all of the land in the West of Steamboat plan. The city would have to have the consent of the county first because the land would remain in the county until pieces of it were developed and annexed.

The GID would then be the entity that would take care of overseeing the financing of the infrastructure or capital projects. The City Council would govern the GID.

Landowners and residents who lived in the proposed GID would have to first petition for such a district and then vote to approve it. If approved by voters, the GID would collect money through a mill levy on the property owners.

Landowners whose property isn't being developed for a number of years wouldn't have a financial burden right away.

While county and city officials admit they aren't eager to see development skyrocket west of Steamboat, they are prepared to meet it head on.

Planning Consultant Don Elliott, who is based out of Denver, said he has worked with planning projects all over the state and hasn't seen anywhere as prepared as Routt County.

"It (community planning) is the best of what I've seen in Colorado," Elliott said. "You're leading in this issue, you're not behind."

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