Group looks at growth

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Research done by the Growth Management Advisory Group shows that Steamboat's population growth is mostly among those of retirement age.

Residents between the ages of 45 and 54 are increasing at a faster rate than those residents between the ages of 30 and 45, said Jodee Anderson, the group's chairwoman.

The trend reflects Census data released Wednesday showing that the elderly population in 26 states, including Colorado, will double by 2030. Anderson said the group's numbers indicate that Steamboat's retirement-age population is increasing at six times the national average and that the age bracket for young families is not growing nearly as fast.

Uncovering such data and determining what effect it could have on Routt County is what the Growth Management Advisory Group has been doing in regular meetings for the past four months.

The group's role is to examine city and county tools in place to manage growth and determine whether those tools are adequate. The group was given a six-month deadline to make recommendations to the City Council and Routt County commissioners. But Anderson predicted the group's work won't be done until December.

The group is still in the fact-finding stage, she said.

The group was formed last fall as a result of the Community Area Plan Update process. The plan calls for the group to recommend additional growth management measures that address the rate of growth and its effects on the community. Those measures include a development cap, a phasing system and a carrying capacity limit.

But the discussion has gone far beyond establishing a rate of growth.

"You can't manage growth by just withholding permits. That is a numbers game," Anderson said. "We are talking about viable communities. We are talking about housing and jobs and quality of life issues."

The group is looking at what the rate of growth has been for the permanent population, commercial building, second-home owners, commuters, visitors, single and multifamily homes and traffic, City Planner Tom Leeson said.

For each of those components, the group is discussing the effects of the rate of growth, why it is occurring, whether it is a problem and what tools the community is using or can use to help manage it.

"They are trying to make it very structured," Leeson said. "It is a very complex topic. It has been difficult to get their hands around."

The group has gotten as far as fully discussing the growth of the permanent population and is looking at commercial growth.

Anderson said findings such as the sharp increase in retirement-age population lead the group to question what can be done to create a more vibrant community.

"We discussed what we thought was necessary to encourage growth in other parts of the population (such as) bringing in affordable housing and more year-round jobs to take the seasonality out of the employment base," Anderson said.

The 12-member group represents a wide spectrum of the community -- a business owner, lawyer, real estate agent and environmentalist are members of the group. Anderson said the comments and discussions very often are not unanimous.

The group meets at 4 p.m. the second and fourth Wednesday of every month, and public comment is taken during the last 10 minutes of every meeting. Anderson said written public comment is also welcomed.

Whatever the group's recommendations, Anderson said growth decisions ultimately will come down to the will of the county commissioners and City Council members.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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