Growth issues put on hold

City will wait for Economic Summit to make decisions

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— When Councilman Bud Romberg drove down Lincoln Avenue on Tuesday, the clock was ticking.

After passing a few empty storefronts, Romberg pressured the council that night to come up with a timeline in their discussion on controlling commercial growth.

"I think we need to set some sort of timeline to which we can take information that comes from the community plan so this thing doesn't drag on for years and years and years," Romberg said.

"I drove down Lincoln Avenue and found one (storefront) that was being emptied out as I was driving by, and I am not encouraged by that," Romberg added.

After hearing public comment, the council agreed to wait until after the Economic Summit in May and after the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan update process before moving forward with discussing commercial growth.

This month, residents are being asked to fill out questionnaires on key choices and directions in the community plan update process.

"I think it would be premature for us to make a decision while the community is going through the process. I would hate to make a decision the community has a completely different feel about," Councilman Paul Strong said.

Steamboat Springs Chamber Executive Vice President Sandy Evans Hall and Noreen Moore, who works with growing businesses in Steamboat, asked the council to wait and not take a reactionary approach to controlling growth.

"Be proactive and work with us. I know we are in tough times and it is critical that we work together and identify how to shore-up our economy," Evans-Hall said.

The topic of 'when enough is enough' came back before the council Tuesday night because of a report from City Planning Director Steve Stamey. At the request of council, Stamey prepared a report pointing to the community plan update and the community development code as the tools the city has for managing growth.

The final draft of the community plan update could influence the city's code.

In his report, Stamey said zoning is perhaps the best tool to put limits and standards on commercial growth and still allow growth to be market-driven.

Stamey also talked about controls cities such as Boulder had looked at to manage commercial growth and franchise and formula stores.

Local developer Peter Patten urged the council to look into regulating architecture and design standards when considering controls on franchise or big box retail.

"Getting into franchise definitions and regulations is a very difficult and dangerous place to go," Patten said.

Romberg has kept the question of "when is enough, enough?" on the minds of council members for the last few months and expressed his concerns for keeping good local business owners in business Tuesday night.

"We need to do what we can do to at least ensure that the economic environment is such that we can have a healthy town," Romberg said.

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