Saturday, January 19, 2002
Routt County commissioners first began considering skyline regulations six years ago, but judging from a meeting last week, they're no closer to a decision on the issue than they were in 1996.
On Monday, the commissioners held a public meeting to consider regulations put together by the Routt County Planning Commission. Save for a handful of residents who attacked some of the wording in the proposed regulations, the arguments that came out were not new.
On one side, residents argued regulations are desperately needed to protect the scenic views along the ridgelines in the county. Just as many argued that implementing restrictions on home construction amounted to an infringement on private-property rights. At least one person threatened to sue the county if it tried to implement the regulations. County commissioners, who have heard the same arguments many times before, listened patiently. Then, to the frustration of many, they decided not to decide. "I think we have made some headway, but there is still considerable work to do," Commissioner Doug Monger said.
That's a rather scary thought considering how much time and energy has already gone into the regulations. Numerous public meetings have been held at sites throughout the county. Estimates are that more than $100,000 has been spent developing the regulations and that a half-dozen homes that would have been subject to the regulations have been built since the issue arose in 1996. Throughout the process, county commissioners have had opportunities to abandon the regulations and have chosen not to. To do so now would be an enormous waste of effort. One of the sticking points on the regulations has been whether to implement them countywide. South and West Routt have shown the most opposition to the regulations. And both Monger and Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak have advocated implementing the regulations in selected areas.
At this point, that seems to be a smart direction to go. Skyline regulations are important to preserving the natural beauty that makes Routt County special for visitors and locals. And it could be argued that protecting those ridgelines is critical to the health of our economy.
If Hayden and Oak Creek want out, exclude them. But there should be little debate about implementing the regulations in parts of the county where skyline protection is most needed like the Upper Elk River Valley, Stagecoach and the Steamboat Springs Area Community Development Plan.
In their attempts not to upset anyone in the skyline regulations debate, commissioners have instead managed to frustrate everyone. That frustration won't subside until commissioners get off the fence on this issue. And the sooner, the better.