Steamboat Springs The city planning department processed 36 percent fewer development permits in 2001 than in 2000, according to a year-end report the planning department will present to the City Council tonight.
The reason for the reduction in permits from 259 to 164, as far as the planning director is concerned, is the economic slowdown that is affecting the entire country. The result of the slowdown may be a change in the way the department does business a shift from concentrating on the day-to-day work of processing development applications to a more concerted effort to discuss and plan the long-term future of the community.
"With a growing pending projects list and a commitment to completing major projects, including the Community Plan and the WSSAP (West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan), staff finds that the slowdown in development applications offers the department a unique opportunity to finally complete the projects that will allow the city to be more 'proactive' in the planning process ," the report reads.
City Council members, however, say they have been getting phone calls from concerned residents mainly developers who want to know why so many planners are needed when there are so many fewer development applications to process.
Council President Pro Tem Paul Strong compared planners to development police officers and thinks developers' reactions are guided in part by an interest in getting some of those "cops" off the streets.
"If you're a drug trafficker you always want less DEA agents," he said.
Randall Hannaway, a principle in Colorado Group Realty and a member of the city Planning Commission, said he thinks developers are generally more concerned with streamlining the development process and making sure it's fair than with how many planners there are. He said the number of development permits will likely rise again and the need for planners will still be there.
Strong said he thinks it's a good thing that the staff is now full, given that the planning department has seen a great deal of turnover in the past five years one of the biggest reasons the city saw a delay in finishing the new Community Development Code.
Planning Director Wendie Schulenberg said the staff now has time to concentrate on long-range goals and help the community define its vision.
"We have a lot of issues out there that have been put on the back burner," she said.
The slowdown must be viewed in its proper context the development community has been extremely busy over the past three years, with extremely high permit numbers from 1998 to 2000, Schulenberg said. What, she asks, is "normal" development activity?
Planners may be asked by the council and Schulenberg to concentrate more of their time on the community plan as opposed to outsourcing much of it to consultants.