Steamboat Springs The city of Steamboat Springs finally has a new Community Development Code.
In the planning and development stages for six years, the code got final approval Tuesday night from the Steamboat Springs City Council.
When the adoption of the ordinance establishing the new code was complete, the city planning department handed out mugs to all of the members of City Council, Planning Commission and the Board of Adjustments that read "I survived the Community Development Code rewrite."
There was a sense, as Planning Director Wendie Schulenberg is now getting ready to get married and council members began a four-week break, that the participants in the rewrite could finally move on with their lives.
The city also handed out mugs to two community members who had been heavily involved in the process: developer Joe Brennan and Attorney Bob Weiss.
The code took six years to complete and inspired more than 200 public meetings, many of which shaped its final language. Some of the issues that were discussed in relation to the code, including short-term rentals and the public and private interests along the Yampa River, inspired community debate for years.
City Council discussed a few final issues in the meeting and made sure they will be constantly reviewing the document as it is used. The City Council has already scheduled a six-month review of the CD Code to figure what is and is not working.
Schulenberg said she would be bringing any problems back to the council as soon as they surfaced.
"We will fix what is broken as we go," added Kathi Meyer, the chairwoman of the Planning Commission.
One criticism of the old code is that it did not change enough with the times, because the city was waiting for the new code to be completed even as development boomed and problems arose.
The code took so long in part because of the high rate of turnover in the city's planning department. Now that the staff is more stable, it has been able to review the code and iron out its kinks.
The new code was written with the intention of making the process of applying for a development permit more predictable. The old code contained many conditional uses that forced developers to go before City Council to find out if they could, for instance, build condos in a multifamily zone. Because the code was up for debate on a number of points, meetings often were unpredictable, said Assistant Planning Director Tim McHarg. The new code bypasses many conditional uses in favor of uses-by-right, which give developers rights to use land in certain ways without necessarily having a public hearing.
"We've gone away from a process of negotiations to one of prescriptions," McHarg said.
The new code also institutes an entirely new development review process, which will keep some projects out of the hands of the Steamboat Springs City Council if they meet the code requirements. The council and community members can still call projects up for review, however.
The new review process will include an Architectural Re-
view Commission, which will be made up of Planning Commission members. Historical Preservation Advis-
ory Commission members may also sit on the commission when historical issues are being discussed, though preservation commission's role is still being discussed.
The commission will be reviewing projects based on the city's architectural guidelines, a practice formerly undertaken by the City Council. The old process was criticized by design professionals who did not want untrained officials reviewing their projects for their design elements.
The code also changes the city's "vesting" provisions, which previously allowed developers to gain permanent approval on their projects if they had completed phase one usually the first building and an amenities building. That led to some projects lying dormant for years as they fell out of conformance with the community's vision, McHarg said.
The new provisions will ask developers to finish projects within three years or come back to the city to sign another development agreement. Projects currently vested, of which there are about 25, will have 10 more years of approval.