Skyline rules being reviewed

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— Skyline regulations may get their second-to-last review Thursday when the county Planning Commission gathers to make a final recommendation to the Routt County Commissioners.

The regulations have been hotly debated for the past few months as the county revises its zoning resolutions and subdivision regulations. The skyline regulations would become a part of the zoning resolutions once they are voted on. The entire subdivision and zoning regulations should be adopted by early next year, said planner John Eastman of the county planning department.

The Steamboat Springs Community Area Plan, along with numerous other local plans, calls for skyline regulations, Eastman said. The city already has skylined areas designated on its zoning map.

Proponents of the regulations argue the county needs to control the views residents and visitors experience when they drive down county roads and major highways. They say the county has already allowed too many buildings to be built that jut into view corridors, including a particularly glaring example in the Strawberry Park neighborhood, called a "poster-child for skylining" by Eastman.

Opponents, however, say the county should not put burdensome regulations on their property that could devalue their land and hinder their property rights.

Skyline regulations have the potential to affect about 4,500 properties in the county, based on a county map of affected sites. A skyline regulation map will also be discussed at the meeting.

Skylined homes are defined by the county as homes that create a silhouette reaching more than 10 feet into the sky. The homes would have to be easily seen from at least eight points along county roads or other roads affected by the regulations, measured at intervals of one-eighth of a mile.

Planning Commissioner Bill Taylor argues the regulations should not be downgraded to guidelines, which would essentially make them optional.

"With guidelines, what happens is people come in and say: 'Where does it say I can't do that?'" Taylor said.

Taylor said the people who build homes on the tops of mountains are often out-of-towners who want to build mansions in places that may not be able to accommodate them visually or environmentally. He said the commission's intention is not to stop people from building on mountains or ridges but to keep them from building towering homes that impede views and can cause erosion.

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