Tuesday, December 10, 2002
Steamboat Springs Fixing the Community Development Code topped the list of new goals the city set at its annual retreat Tuesday.
During the eight-hour retreat in a house along Val d'Isere Circle, the City Council also said it wanted to get an ordinance passed prohibiting the use of a cell phone while driving and to form a stronger partnership with the Routt County commissioners.
But the goal that spurred the most discussion was creating a more user-friendly development code, which is used by the city's planning department.
"The staff is being titled as planning services, but the public out there doesn't feel like they are getting much of a service," Councilman Steve Ivancie said.
The old code, Councilman Loui Antonucci said, was criticized for giving the city too much room for interpretation, but he believes the current code might have swung too far in the other direction.
"Staff has tried to write something for every conceivable problem, but you cannot do that," he said. "We have something that is mind-boggling to those who have even written it."
City Manager Paul Hughes said the first assignment for the new city planning director would be reviewing the entire code. And he believes the code can be fixed.
"If you tell me to review the code for trouble spots and fix them, I will come back a year from now with that done," Hughes said.
But Councilman Bud Romberg said he would also like to establish a system for when residents come up with problems about the development code.
"What can we do to help in these situations rather than being rigid and say this is how you have to do it," Romberg said.
The council agreed the best approach would be to take the complaints it received to Hughes instead of dealing directly with the planning staff.
Hughes estimated that he had dealt with 20 complaints surrounding the code this year. And City Attorney Tony Lettunich said a high percentage of those complaints were spurred from builders, who built into setbacks, easements, public rights of way or on their neighbor's land.
"They come in, say 'I have a problem and I demand that you solve it,' when they are the ones who have caused it," Lettunich said.
Romberg suggested requiring a survey, which could solve most of those problems, but Hughes said that recommendation is two layers below where the city needs to start.
Hughes said the city is in contact with contractor Tom Fox, who has a list of grievances from the construction community about the code.
Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner advised that the city look at what is right with the development code and be careful at how much is changed.
"We do not want to give away too much in our goal to make the thing user-friendly," Stettner said. "We are also the guardians and stewards for the public benefit. We have to allow the community to maintain its rights as well."
Another goal the city put on its list was creating an ordinance that would prohibit people from using their cell phones while driving. Antonucci brought the idea to the council and said he has almost been hit three times by drivers talking on their cell phones.
"It is going to kill someone," he said.
The rest of the council agreed to look into it but also warned it might be a hard law to implement. Discussion revolved around if the law would prohibit all cell phone use or just holding a phone and how the law would be enforced.
Also, City Council President Kathy Connell suggested continuing the relationship with the city and county.
She said the city should figure out a way to reach those who own businesses in the city but live outside city limits and therefore can't vote.
"We may be two different governmental entities, but our problems are common," Connell said.