As city and county officials approved the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan Update on Monday, it was with a sigh of relief after two years of work, controversial decision-making and more than 130 public meetings.
But it was a temporary sigh, because for many, the real work is just beginning.
"For all the hard work and time and money that have gone into the plan to date, we are just barely getting started on the most important part. And that is the implementation of it," City Councilman Ken Brenner said.
More than 200 action items came out of the adopted version of the area plan and 84 of them were designated as No. 1 priorities. A No. 2 priority was given to 68 items, a No. 3 priority was given to 11 items, and 46 items were marked as ongoing projects.
"The fact that the plan lists a lot of projects is not a bad thing," City Planning Director Steve Stamey said. "It indicates a lot of need. We need to just pick away at them."
The action items include complicated missions, such as preparing an open space master plan and establishing a housing-to-job linkage program, and projects already under way, such as developing a regional housing authority and supporting business incubators.
For the county and city planning departments, one of the first pieces of businesses will be examining each action item and determining how much time and money it will take and whose responsibility it should be, County Planner Chad Phillip said.
The city and county need to come together to determine the two or three most important items and how much money the governments have to spend on those items, said City Planning Commission Chairwoman Kathi Meyer.
"We have to sit down with the city and county and really fine-tune all the items," Meyer said.
Brenner foresees the prioritization list coming before City Council and county commissioners during a June meeting.
Along with prioritizing action items, another post-adoption step will be forming a growth management advisory group. As the city and county boards were working through the area plan process last fall, they realized putting a growth-management mechanism in the plan could tie up the process, Phillip said.
Instead, the boards decided to put wording in the plan that would form, within the next six months, a growth advisory group to examine that question.
The committee should be a broad representation of the community and should come back to the city and council with a recommendation within six months of their appointment, the plan states. The city and county have not discussed the exact makeup of the advisory committee or what its specific mission or goal is. Those need to be established, Meyer said. "I've said all along the devil is in the details," she said.
County Planning Director Caryn Fox has faith the plan can be implemented, pointing to the number of directions from the 1995 Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan that were put into place. The West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, a ridgeline and skyline overlay zone and identifying and mapping key natural and scenic resources all were directions in the 1995 plan that have been completed.
In this plan, Meyer sees one of the biggest projects coming as updating the Community Development Code. She estimates that about 80 percent of the more than 200 action items will flow through or impact the community code.
"A lot of to-do items in the plan have to get incorporated into the code," Meyer said. "Things that speak about design standards and site development."
Meyer and Fox see an update to the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan as an action item that could be started soon.
The big-ticket items are in the plan's open space and recreation, transportation and capital facilities sections, Meyer said.
The open space, recreation and trails strategies recommend exploring and adopting a dedicated funding source for open space, preparing parks and recreation and open space master plans, supporting community efforts to purchase key open space parcels and creating open space protection incentives.
"If and when better times come to Steamboat, I think we are going to spend a lot of money on buying open space and trails," Meyer said.
With goals such as providing 20-minute interval bus service to West of Steamboat Springs and increasing summer airline travel, the action items coming from the transportation, mobility and circulation section call for major spending. The section also calls for widening U.S. Highway 40, implementing paid parking in the Old Town area and exploring the option of a passenger rail.
Open space and transportation might take up government money, but Meyer said private property owners might feel the biggest hit to their pocket books when it comes to recommendations in the community design chapter.
"Someone has to pay to have higher design standards, and it isn't going to be the citizen. It is going to be the developer," she said.
The community design chapter recommends assessing site planning standards, residential design standards and commercial design standards. It also calls for developing natural area standards, residential infill standards, rural design guidelines, big-box design standards, corridor setback standards and public space design standards.
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