County seeks more input

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— Only one person from the public commented about the proposed updating of the Routt County Master Plan, which concerned officials at the Regional Planning Commission meeting and the lone member of the public in the audience Thursday night.

Similarly, Assistant Planning Director Chad Phillips told planning commissioners at the meeting that the county has received no e-mails and no phone calls about the plan.

"This is pathetic for something that is this important," the lone voice of resident Stuart Orzack told the commissioners.

The Routt County Master Plan gives guidelines to commissioners when it comes to making decisions about land-use changes in the county, like housing developments. The plan also holds a particular importance to zoning regulations, which the county plans to update by the end of the year, Phillips said.

In fact, this week the county hired consultants at a cost of $50,000 to study the old regulations and look at action items in the new master plan to help update the zoning regulations, Phillips said.

Much of the updated language in the plan centers around protecting open spaces in the county.

"The purpose of this plan is to help sustain rural character," Planning Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said, while revising some of the updated wording.

Sections added to the plan, which was originally drafted in 1980, include wildlife, tourism and policies that say the county prefers "land preservation subdivisions" where houses are clustered to one area over 35-acre developments.

It also includes language encouraging affordable housing dispersed within proposed developments.

Planning Commissioner John Ayer said the county will have to try harder to get the word out about the need for public involvement in the plan.

"It's in competition with other planning issues in the town," Ayer said. "So we'll have to do an extra good job of getting it out there."

From gravel pit hearings to city planners rewriting the Steamboat Community Development Code, Ayer said residents have a full plate of planning issues.

Also, in the last six years, most of the community development plans in the county have been drafted, after numerous community meetings, Phillips said. Those plans tend to hold more bearing for local residents because documents deal in more detail with specific areas.

"Most people are interested with their own area," Planning Commissioner Bill Taylor said. "Not places 20 miles away."

In May, the planning commission will take the proposed plan on the road to north, south and west Routt County to allow for more public comment.

Bush said the county may want to consider explaining the public process better when advertising those additional meetings.

"We tend to assume that people know the process," she said. Bush added that county residents may not know they can have some control on the language in the plan.

Planning Commission Chairman Troy Brookshire said the county also should make it clear that people can turn their suggestions in to the planning department.

"If anybody in the county has an idea of change to this document, they should get it to staff," he said.

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