Routt County commissioners said Monday that the growing traffic problems at 13th Street and Lincoln Avenue should be acknowledged in the Steamboat Springs Community Area Plan Update.
Commissioners said the controversial Yampa Street Connector, which would join 13th Street directly with Yampa Street and close the current connection of 13th Street with Lincoln Avenue, should not be ruled out as an option.
The commissioners' decision conflicts with previous decisions from the Steamboat Springs City Council and the city and county Planning Commissions. Those entities have said the Yampa Street Connector should not be recommended because it could change the character of the town and negatively affect Little Toots Park.
County and city planning staff and traffic consultants have taken stances in line with the commissioners'.
Changes to traffic patterns at 13th Street could influence how the Bud Werner Memorial Library expands and could take away space from the historical park.
Although such changes may not be needed for another decade when much of the area west of Steamboat Springs grows, a statement about the problem could be helpful to the library and other entities, Routt County Planner John Eastman said. What is not helpful, he said, is to build 2,500 houses just west of town, create a transportation problem and say it doesn't exist.
Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said the issue wasn't a "heart breaker" for him, but that the plan should address it.
"It concerns me that we wouldn't come up with a plan. ... to remedy some of our problems," Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said. The city and county cannot simply pass the problem along to future generations, he said.
Routt County Planning Commissioner Fred Nichols, who said language about the connector should be taken out of the plan at the Planning Commission's meeting Thursday, said Monday he had changed his mind. After talking with Eastman, Nichols said he felt the plan should contain some language about the traffic issue.
"We can't have a planning document with the problems that we know exist and not have something in the plan that says what we're going to do about it," Nichols said.
He suggested that he felt such a connector would have to travel at least to Fifth Street to give any relief and also said that he did not know what solution would be best.
At the Thursday meeting, four county planning commissioners said they felt reference to the connector should be removed from the plan, and four said it should stay.
County commissioners also decided that the area plan should not include land south of County Road 18, as shown on some maps and that government buildings should remain in downtown "when appropriate."
The city and county Planning Commissions will hold a joint meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at Centennial Hall.
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