Landowners west of Steamboat came together Thursday to point out major stumbling blocks in the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan and what could be done to encourage development.
Thursday was the first time since the area plan was adopted in 1999 that landowners gathered formally to give their input on why the plan has not moved forward. At its adoption, the plan was seen as a map for where the next phase of growth should occur in Steamboat and a guide to ease the lack of affordable housing.
But in the past four years, landowners said the constraints from the plan have made development nearly impossible.
Mary Brown, who with Steve Brown is the largest property owner in the designated area, said they had four seasoned and qualified developers look at building on their 538 acres. After reading the area plan, she said, the developers wouldn't even scratch a plan on the back of an envelope.
"If the plan is the plan, then my view is that you are wasting your time and money," she said, "because each of us has found we can't proceed in a reasonable fashion and make it financially feasible."
A mix of landowners, real estate planners and concerned residents attended Thursday's meeting hosted by the Area Plan Coordinating Committee.
Brown said the requirement in the plan to build east to west is one of the major problems. The plan also does not have the right density for the property, and landowners should be given incentives in the planning process for following the plan, she said.
What makes the most sense, Brown said, would be for the city and county to allow them to develop on the east edge of their property that is close to the Silver Spur Subdivision.
But County Commission Doug Monger said the county was not in the development business and wanted the plan to be developed east to west, which would make it easier for the city to annex it.
"I guarantee the commissioners are not going to come off the east to west (issue). If you think we are going to be building west to east, we will be sitting here for a long time," Monger said.
Some elected officials also balked at the idea of decreasing the density in the plan. But Brown said that because of the way the plan is laid out, some of the property's most valuable assets are being overlooked.
Councilman Ken Brenner said that if the density is reduced, the town could build out sooner than expected.
"When we start to down zone from six to four units per acre, that number drops dramatically, and we just run into the wall that much sooner," Brenner said. "We need to keep a certain level of density inside a certain level of service area."
The area plan, encompassing more than 1,200 acres, plans for 2,400 units; one-third of those units would be designated as affordable housing.
Four years, 100 public meetings and 17 draft documents went into creating the plan. The community has supported moving in the direction of the plan.
At the plan's approval, it was thought that developers would have an incentive to follow the area plan. By meeting the one-third affordable housing requirement, developers could have a much higher density than what was allowed under the one unit per 35 acres allowed by state law. The development also would be annexed into the city and be served with the city's water and sewer system.
Planner Vince Hooper said the plan sends the message that growth is not wanted in the area west of Steamboat Springs.
"If you want it to grow, there are a lot of things that you can do," he said.
Bob Furman, an engineer working on property near the airport owned by Walter Scott, said that under the plan, his clients' property should be one of the first to be developed. Furman said that will be difficult to do unless they can work with other property owners to bring in infrastructure.
To develop his property, Furman said, Scott would have to put in a road access, a loop water system and sewer system.
"It's a hard property to do without working with other people," Furman said.
Realtor Norbert Turek suggested that to take the lead in the development, the city should broker the deal for a road. But other landowners asked where that road would go.
Council President Paul Strong said they would continue discussions with landowners at a February Area Plan Coordinating Committee meeting.