I read with great interest your commentary of June 25 regarding the proposed Cottagewood development, particularly since the commentary followed Christine Metz's June 22 article on the same development proposal.
Because the Today's normal practice has been to review the development application file with planning staff before taking a position, your editorial came as quite a surprise.
In the interest of presenting the issues of the development proposal in their true complexity, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify some facts for the record.
Current Zoning Designation: The proposed 6.3 acre site for the Cottagewood is zoned Residential Estates 1.
This zoning requires a minimum lot size of one dwelling unit per acre. This allowed residential density for the site has been constant for a minimum of 18 years. More importantly, the low density zoning designation is based upon a number of significant constraints associated with the site that are not compatible with higher density residential uses. These include a single platted access, substantial wetlands, and location within the 100-year floodplain. These constraints reduce the density and intensity of land uses that the site can sustainably support.
Ingress/Egress and Emergency Vehicle Access: The Cottagewood site currently has only one platted vehicular access point. The Uniform Fire Code allows a maximum of 24 residential units within developments with a single emergency vehicle access point. This UFC standard is intended to protect the public health, safety and welfare in the case where the single access point is blocked during an emergency situation. If the developer can provide a second point of access, this standard would not apply.
Wetlands: The developer has not provided a wetland report as a component of the pre-application submittal. However, a delineation that was completed in 1997 indicates that at least a third of the site is composed of wetlands.
While the developer's stated intention is to preserve the majority of these wetlands, there are numerous impacts to the wetlands proposed by the application, including fill, utility construction, and excavation of wetlands to create ponds. In many cases, no buffers, which provide important water quality and wildlife functions, are proposed for the wetlands. Buffers protect wetlands. Therefore, the long term viability and health of the on-site wetlands are unclear.
Floodplain: The site is located within the 100-year floodplain pursuant to the Flood Insurance Rating Map produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Clearly, high density residential uses should not be located within the 100 year floodplain for public safety reasons.
Sidewalks: The developer's proposal does not include sidewalks. It is simply poor planning practice to develop high density residential uses that are not supported by a correspondingly high level of amenities, including pedestrian improvements. Beyond the stated intent of all of Steamboat's adopted plans and regulations to create a pedestrian oriented community, a significant factor in the ability of residential neighborhoods to hold their value over time is the quality of the streets within the neighborhood. The target market for Cottagewood of working families deserves this value.
Flexibility within the Planning Process: Zoning standards are intended to provide certainty to property owners and the community regarding allowed uses and intensity of use. However, in certain cases, these standards may be varied through a public review process to further community goals, such as affordable housing, pedestrian friendly neighborhoods, transit oriented development, or mixed use development.
Planning Staff supports appropriate high density development, even if it requires substantial variation from the standards of the Community Development Code. However, it is our view that the sites receiving density variances must be able to sustain it over time.
It is unclear to staff, based upon what has been submitted for the Cottagewood pre-application, if the proposed site can support the density proposed.
The developer has proposed 46 residential units, with the potential to add live-work units or a commercial health club use. This represents an increase of 766 percent over the residential density allowed by the current zoning designation.
Planning staff has indicated a willingness to consider a maximum of 24 residential units on the Cottagewood site, based on the maximum number allowed by the UFC for a development with a single access point.
This number of units represents a 400 percent increase over the residential density allowed by the current RE-1 zoning designation. For a site with as many significant constraints as the subject property, Planning Staff believes that this represents a substantial amount of flexibility.
The Cottagewood proposal will most likely be processed as a Planned Unit Development under the provisions of the Community Development Code.
The PUD process is intended to allow variations as a means of providing flexibility, allowing creativity and preserving features valued by the community. However, the requirement of the PUD process is that the extent of the variances requested should have a direct and proportional relationship to the magnitude of the benefit that is received by the community at large or to the users of the project.
The categories of benefit and public purpose are specified in the CDC.
We are always available to answer your, or any community member's, questions regarding a specific development proposal or general planning issues.
The Department of Planning Services is located in Centennial Hall and can be reached at 879-2060.
Tim McHarg, AICP
of Planning Services
I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to the Routt County Sheriff's Office as well as the Routt County commissioners.
Recently, I was involved in a serious accident in which the patrol vehicle I was driving was demolished.
Unfortunately, Jackson County had only three reliable patrol vehicles. Jackson County, as well as the town of Walden, encompasses 1,628 square miles, which is patrolled at this time by three officers.
I contacted Routt County Sheriff John Warner to see if it was possible to borrow a patrol vehicle.
John, in turn, contacted the county commissioners who approved the use of a 2000 Ford Explorer until a replacement vehicle could be purchased.
Mutual aid between the counties has been a valuable resource whether it is during a forest fire, a search and rescue or a motorist assist.
We would like to continue the working relationship between Routt and Jackson counties and hope to return the favor in some way.
Sheriff Rick Rizor
Jackson County Sheriff's Office
Oak Creek issues
I take issue with two of your editorials, especially on Mayor Rodeman's paid part-time position as grant writer for the town of Oak Creek.
Of course this happens in a public forum with proper notification. If this issue was of such great importance to you, there was adequate time for you to respond prior to the vote on your dissent. As with your quote from Bill Norris, it has absolutely no merit at all because he did not participate in the process. At the board meeting, the trustees' comments were all logical and sound. There was not one word of comment from the public either way on this published agenda item.
As a journalist, you have a tremendous responsibility to report the whole story and most importantly, the truth.
You have not done your job. You continue to undermine our community with biased views and opinions.
Opinions are just that. I do know this -- there is a tremendous amount of support for the mayor and the board with an upbeat feeling in this town for the positive direction we are moving.
Until you accept this and decide to do a positive story with supportive quotes, please mind your own business and stay away. Clean up your own back yard, as there is plenty of fodder in Steamboat Springs to write about.