Council halts growth

City OKs moratorium on new development at ski area's base

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The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday approved a 45-day moratorium on growth inside the boundaries of the new urban renewal authority.

The emergency ordinance would prohibit the council from approving any development plan and final development plan or accepting any new pre-application plan within the URA boundaries. Plans for a half-dozen condominium projects have been announced since the URA was approved last month.

The council's intent was to prevent any new construction at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area before the completion of the Mountain Town Sub-Area Plan Update. A draft of the update is expected to be finished by July 31. The council and Planning Commission still would need to approve the draft.

The council described the moratorium as a timeout, allowing the city to work out the details of the plan before major redevelopment occurs in the area.

"There is an impact on the stakeholders, but there is also an impact on the community in the future," Councilman Steve Ivancie said. "I think it is prudent to take the opportunity to ensure the success of the base area plan. We don't want to make the same mistake we made years ago when the base area was created without a plan."

Councilwoman Kathy Connell said the three main concerns with development plans are height and density, architectural styles and mobility and circulation patterns.

City Manager Paul Hughes told the council Tuesday night that city staff had discussed a moratorium and had even talked to developers to see whether a voluntary one could be put in place by the main landowners at the base of the ski area.

Hughes said the moratorium would not delay the construction times of any proposed new projects.

"No one was planning to break ground this season. It seems as though it could work to provide guidance to developers and applicants," Hughes said.

On Tuesday, developer Whitney Ward submitted two pre-application plans within the URA boundaries -- Wildhorse Meadows and One Steamboat Place. He said the moratorium would discourage partnerships and out-of-town investors.

"This kind of thing tends to spook them. It will have unintended consequences," Ward said.

Attorney Bob Weiss called the city's lack of public notification on the moratorium bad government.

"I think if you do this, what it does is send a message to the good developers that they can't have confidence in dealing with the city," Weiss said. "I don't think you want to send this message."

The emergency ordinance was not placed on the council's agenda until Monday afternoon.

Council members talked about the emergency ordinance at their annual retreat last week.

Unlike a regular ordinance, an emergency ordinance does not require a first and second reading and goes into effect immediately, not seven days after it is passed.

Councilman Paul Strong said the council went with an emergency ordinance to stop the rash of applications that usually come into the planning department soon after the council mentions the word moratorium.

If developers knew the council was considering a moratorium and submitted their applications before, Strong said it could defeat the purpose of the Mountain Town Sub-Area Plan Update and the intention of the URA to have a plan to help improve the base area.

Connell recommended that the city cut the originally proposed 90-day moratorium to 45 days. She suggested that the council allow the public to comment as soon as possible and listen to their concerns before adopting a longer lasting ordinance within the next 45 days.

The council plans to discuss the moratorium at its March 1 and March 15 meetings.

City Planning Director Steve Stamey said no development or final development plans within the urban renewal boundary are in the city's planning process right now. But, five pre-applications within the boundary have been submitted to the planning department: One Steamboat Place, Aspen Ridge, the Point, Christie Base Parcel B and Wildhorse Meadows.

Stamey said the planning department also has had contact with a developer who is interested in redeveloping the Clock Tower building.

The intent of the urban renewal authority is to raise money to fund public improvements in the vicinity of the Steamboat Ski Area's base. The authority is funded partially through the increase in property tax created from new development or redevelopment in the area. It also is funded through incremental increases in sales tax in the area.

Much of Tuesday night's discussion focused on whether pre-applications should be allowed to proceed through the planning process and whether the city should accept new ones during the 45-day moratorium.

The council's final decision was to not allow new pre-applications and to allow those who already have submitted pre-applications to proceed with the caveat that the updated plan could change the council's direction.

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