Board reviews plan update

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The Routt County Planning Commission suggested forming a community group to focus on one of the most controversial areas of the Steamboat Springs Community Area Plan Update: growth control.

During Thursday's joint city and county planning commission meeting to discuss the final draft of the plan, County Planning Commissioner Ken Brenner proposed the idea of handing the growth-control mechanism of the plan, which could limit the amount of growth through establishing a growth rate or timing mechanism, over to a community committee. Planning commissioners felt the growth-control issue could not be resolved in time for the scheduled approval of the plan and was taking attention away from other important issues in the plan.

"No one with a good knowledge on this issue would pretend we could solve that issue and put it back in (to the plan) in time for adoption," Brenner said.

County Planning Commission members said the committee should be comprised of elected officials and stakeholders ranging from business people to residents of the city and county.

In July, the City Council and county commissioners took out the direction given by consultants Clarion Associates to use a growth-control mechanism. Residents were asking that rate and timing mechanisms be restored in the final draft of the plan.

Some planning commissioners said there was significant community concern that growth control be looked at, as indicated in past surveys. "The public acceptance and confidence in the plan could fall by the way side because the issue is that serious," Planning Commissioner John Ayer said. City Planning Commission Chairman Kathi Meyer recommended the county Planning Commission prepare a formal proposal, which the city Planning Commission could review before it meets with the City Council on Tuesday. Although the county Planning Commission approved proposing a committee to look at growth controls, not every county planning commissioner believed that growth control should be explored.

"I am still 100 percent against a growth cap. I think it would be disastrous," Planning Commissioner Terry Hunter said. Growth management was not the only item in the draft that sparked debate. The two boards also reviewed policies included in the transportation section of the plan.

Clarion Associates representative Ben Herman said the working group was very clear in its desire to have the plan emphasize alternative modes of transportation, such as walking, biking and mass transit. It wanted roadway improvements to take the back seat to improving the transit system, trail system and sidewalks, he said.

Before the plan can be adopted, Meyer said, the community will have to decide what its vision is for Yampa Avenue. Efforts to make Yampa Avenue more pedestrian-oriented would be in direct conflict with the plan's proposal that the street could one day serve as a bypass for U.S. Highway 40.

The draft plan recommends keeping a section near 13th Street and Yampa Avenue undeveloped, which would impact plans for the expansion of Bud Werner Memorial Library.

"We are going to have to make a decision on our view of Yampa Avenue. If it is a pedestrian-friendly street, we can't have it as a collection road," Meyer said. "We can't have our cake and eat it to." The two boards agreed to recommend taking Yampa Avenue off the list as a possible bypass of U.S. 40.

The boards also discussed the plan's recommendation to promote summer air service because the consultants believe that if more people fly into Steamboat, traffic will drop during the busy summer travel months. Some commissioners commended the plan's suggestion to implement paid parking in the Old Town area, but questioned whether the downtown business community would support such a change.

The two boards plan to meet again before the end of the month to finish their review of the draft.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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