Area plan update under way

Consultants begin gathering information today

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— With a consultant in hand and the money to pay the firm, the city and county are ready to take the next step in its Area Community Plan Update.

Clarion and Associations will be coming to Steamboat to start the data-collection process this week, a result of the City Council's approval to hire the Boulder-based consulting firm with a $275,00 price tag.

And next Monday, more than 100 community members will meet for the first time since establishing working groups in November. The 10 working groups, which weigh in on issues from economic development to transportation to environmentally sensitive areas, are designed to give the consultants a sense of what is important to Steamboat.

At the kickoff meeting in November, the working groups made a list of priorities. City planner Tom Leeson said the next step will be to narrow each of the group's priorities to a top 10 or a top five list, which will be used by the consultants.

"The consultants provide technical expertise on all elements. Whatever we decide to do, they are really going to be there for saying what works, what legally works," Leeson said.

Expected to receive county commissioners' and the City Council's approval by this time next year, the community plan update is a revised and more extensive version to the one drafted in 1995. Addressing issues from growth management, historical preservation and economic sustainability, the plan is intended to be a blueprint for how governments direct development in Steamboat Springs.

The original community plan cost between $125,000 to $150,000 to complete, but Leeson said this community plan grew more costly, being more technically detailed and expanding to look 15 to 20 years ahead.

And Leeson said that is where the consultants come in as they do the technical analysis that was not required in the original plan. That means instead of forming policies, consultants will provide the concrete data for issues such as how growth would impact traffic. That would determine what intersections or roads would need upgraded in the future. And those figures will give the city and county a better idea of what traffic improvements need to be made first and establish a clear action plan, something Leeson said the first community plan did not have.

The consultants, who are expected to work with the city and county during the entire planning process, will start collecting data today.

"They're meeting with staff and gathering all the data. It's going to take a little time to get a good understanding of where Steamboat is," Leeson said.

With the county paying $70,000 of the fee, the city is footing most of the bill and is allocating $45,000 in grant money to the project.

As project manager, Clarion will bring in three other consulting firms for transportation, the environment and historical preservation issues.

Even with consultants under contract, Leeson said the city and county are still looking to fill the work groups. Each group is intended to sit 10 members but fields between eight and nine members now.

Working groups, which draw from interested community members, the planning commission, county commissioners, the City Council and county and city staff, will meet three to four times between May and September.

Monday's meeting starts at 6 p.m at Citizens Hall on 10th Street.

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