Steamboat Springs The City Council decided the guidelines it had on the books were enough to regulate big-box retail until the Area Community Plan is completed.
Discussions at Tuesday night's council meeting centered on the need for growth management and when the city should implement it. The major concern was with large commercial stores, national chains such as Wal-Mart, Target, Costco and Home Depot that use similar architecture and design features throughout the country.
"We don't want Steamboat to look like anytown, USA," Councilman Bud Romberg said.
Although a six-month moratorium on growth was on the table from the beginning of the discussion, the council directed staff to change wording in its codes. By using the word "shall instead of "should," the council is looking to make it mandatory for developers to follow architecture standards that prevent the big-box look plain, vanilla rectangular boxes and large parking lots.
Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner put on the table a moratorium that would put a hold on commercial growth for six months, when the city and county's Area Community Plan update is expected to be completed.
"I'm concerned about approving projects before our ducks are in a row. I would like to suggest that we could back off until we got our ducks in a row and make some productive decisions with the community plan," Stettner said.
For more than a month, almost 100 residents have been meeting to work on updating the 1995 community plan, which is a blueprint for the city's growth in the next 10 to 15 years. One of the top concerns with those 100 residents is commercial growth, Planning Director Wendie Schulenburg said.
City Manager Paul Hughes said the city staff was directed Tuesday night to wait until the Community Area Plan was finished before setting any commercial growth guidelines and to limit what commercial growth does come before the council with current codes.
Any development plan that is submitted to the city before the council passes its growth management guidelines, Schulenburg said, would be subject to the existing code. She also told the council that many potential commercial developments are out there.
After Stettner's request for a moratorium, the rest of the council said more information was needed and consideration had to be made for development plans that were expected to come before the council soon and could be held up for a year or two.
"I've never been comfortable with the word 'moratorium.' It really scares me. We don't even have a description of what a big box is," Councilman Loui Antonucci said. "We need to be very careful where we go with this."
Romberg suggested the council stick with the guidelines the city has been using, which limits the design standards for retail outlets with national chains. He said he has used those during his time on Planning Commission and the city.
But Schulenburg said that might not provide all the protection the council wants to see in the next few months.
"What we currently have would not be enough to prevent a Blockbuster Video or something like that. It's is a very gray area for us," she said.
The council's discussion was prompted by a city staff report that gave eight methods municipalities around the country use to manage big-box stores and formula retail chains. And Schulenburg said council members were prompted by concerns with the South Village at Steamboat development, which proposes a mix of local, regional and national stores along the U.S. 40 corridor.
The South Village developer, Whitney Ward, spoke before the council about the development, which includes a 27,000-square-foot anchor store that Gart Sports has been eyeing.
"Uncertainty is deadly, costly and deadly. Please take into consideration issues around building a retail project and how it will compete with a healthy downtown," Ward said.
"I only ask that you work with me. I am willing to work within all the guidelines."
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