Big-box ordinance OK'd

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The City Council approved an ordinance regulating large retail stores but with the caveat it continue working on the ordinance during the next six months.

City Planning Director Steve Stamey questioned whether the ordinance up for adoption, which required larger stores to show more public benefit, was enforceable. He also asked that the council better express the intent of the ordinance.

"I need to know what it is you want to regulate. We could probably write an ordinance that will regulate anything," Stamey said.

Councilwoman Susan Dellinger made a motion to approve the ordinance, but with the promise to continue looking at solutions for regulating big-box retail. The council gave itself a six-month timeframe to review its policy and go through the public process. The council approved the motion, 6-1, with Councilwoman Nancy Kramer casting the lone objection.

In March, the council placed a 90-day moratorium on any single tenant of a retail or commercial building more than 12,000 square feet coming into the city's planning process. The city had hopes of approving an ordinance to regulate big-box stores before the moratorium expired. Tuesday was the last council meeting before the moratorium expires in two weeks.

The approved ordinance limits retail, commercial and building supply stores to 20,000 square feet south and east of 13th Street. It also requires any store larger than 12,000 square feet to go through a planned-unit development process, which is a more subjective process that requires the applicant to prove that the public good of the project outweighs its negative impacts.

When the council looked at the first reading of the ordinance May 18, it requested that staff add wording to the community development code that would require large stores to demonstrate public benefit -- the larger the store, the more benefit it should provide.

The city code lists four ways a store could demonstrate public benefit: having excellent design, improving neighborhood services, providing economic sustainability, and providing or preserving affordable housing.

Stamey said that requiring more public benefit based entirely on size might not fairly assess the impact that stores could have on traffic, employees and small businesses. For example, he said, a large warehouse that sold locally crafted log furniture would have a much different impact from a national retail chain store of the same size.

Stamey also said some sites might not be able to meet all the criteria in the ordinance.

Under the ordinance, stores 40,000 square feet or larger would have to demonstrate all four areas of public benefit. Stamey said he was worried the areas might not lend themselves to every site or building, therefore making it impossible for some developers to meet the code.

Councilman Loui Antonucci said the council was looking at an ordinance that might not be workable and needed more thought.

"I am rather hesitant to approve something that needs to be corrected," he said. "Also, you can't just pass something through before resolving issues. It really isn't serving the greater purpose."

Council President Paul Strong said all four of the added public benefits in the code gave enough leeway and options so that sites of more than 40,000 square feet could meet the guidelines.

"I don't know why anyone couldn't meet all four," he said.

He also said his intent on regulating big-box stores had been very clear.

"My real intent is to try to make Steamboat Springs unique as a tourism destination," Strong said, which he said is encouraged by having large stores limited to 20,000 square feet south of 13th Street.

In other business:

n The council agreed to open up its community support portion of the budget to all nonprofit organizations. In the past few years, the city had not allowed any new nonprofits to request funding and held all the current nonprofit funding at the same level. The council also agreed to appoint council members to work with staff to refine the community support portion of the budget.

n City attorney Tony Lettunich announced that the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District has filed a motion with the Colorado Water Conservation Board to restrict the amount of flows the city could ask for in its water rights application. Last week, the state water board denied the city's water rights application but did not say what would be acceptable water flow. The Upper Yampa Board asked that it limit the water rights from April 15 to July 15 to flows of 350 cubic feet per second and that the water right not be for tubing or rafting.

n The council approved the first reading of an ordinance allowing the city to buy 101 acres of open space at the north Lafarge gravel pit. The land would be purchased through money from the Yampa River Legacy Project, Great Outdoors Colorado, Routt County Preservation of Development Rights and the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The land will be accessed off River Road and sits next to the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area.

n The council approved the first reading of an ordinance, which is a contract between the city and the Colorado Division of Wildlife on managing the 101 acres of open space.

n In a 4-3 vote, the council approved to match an $115,956 Federal Aviation Administration grant with $6,101 for the purchase of snow removal equipment at the Steamboat Springs Airport. Councilwoman Susan Dellinger asked if money should continue to be spent on the airport and asked to table the item until the council had a chance to discuss the future of the airport. Councilman Ken Brenner and Steve Ivancie also voted against the funding.

n The council approved the final development plan for phase one of Wildhorse Market Place, a commercial and office development in the area encompassed by Mount Werner and Pine Grove roads and U.S. Highway 40. The approval included a 20,080-square-foot retail store that is intended for Gart Sports. A 10,168-square-foot office building, a 9,921-square-foot retail and restaurant building and a 12,535-square-foot retail and restaurant building also were approved.

n The council approved the final development plan for a mixed-use development at the corner of Yampa and 11th streets. The development would have 11 townhomes, two employee-designated apartments and commercial space on the bottom of the buildings.

n The council approved the final development plans for an automobile sales and service center on the southwest corner of Curve Court and U.S. Highway 40. The applicant, Cook Chevrolet, proposed a 12,500-square-foot building and outdoor automobile display area.

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