Council extends halt on growth

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The Steamboat Springs City Council extended its moratorium on building at the base of the ski area to Nov. 1.

At its Tuesday meeting, the council agreed to continue a 45-day emergency moratorium to Nov. 1, prohibiting any development or final development plans from coming into the city.

The boundaries for the moratorium are the same as those for the urban renewal authority, encompassing the base of Steamboat Ski Area and extending to the Meadows parking area.

The city also agreed to allow pre-applications to be processed through the city after the update to the Mountain Town Sub Area Plan is completed but before the moratorium expires.

The council wanted to impose a moratorium so the city could complete the plan before building began at the ski area. In January, the city approved a URA to do public improvements to the base area and received five pre-applications for major redevelopment projects in the area at about the same time.

Peter Patten, who is working with developer Whitney Ward on two projects within the URA boundaries, asked the city to reduce the amount of public meetings scheduled. He asked whether the city needed 14 public meetings or whether they could reduce the number to seven or eight so the plan would be completed by June.

"If you could compress the schedule and try to find a middle ground on what you guys are trying to accomplish and what the developers are trying to accomplish," Patten said.

The council turned down the request.

"Trying to compress it would work absolutely against us," Councilwoman Kathy Connell said. "This is the last chance in our lifetimes that we have to do this plan, this mountain area correct."

On Feb. 16, the council passed a 45-day emergency ordinance intended to give the city a chance to discuss a longer moratorium and allow the public to make comments. Tuesday night was the first reading of an ordinance to replace it.

Council President Paul Strong suggested the Nov. 1 extension. The Mountain Town Sub Area Plan is scheduled to be completed by July 31. Strong said it could take three more months before the council adopts the plan and the recommended ordinances are approved.

The main discussion of the night centered on whether and when pre-applications would be accepted. The pre-application is the first step in the city planning process.

Unlike a development and final development plan, the pre-application is voluntary, the council gives only its feedback and no vest rights go along with the plan.

Councilman Loui Antonucci worried that the Nov. 1 deadline could be too long to wait for some developers and feared it would postpone the actual building in the base area to summer 2007.

The moratorium would only add to the boom and busy construction cycle, Antonucci said, as a rash of plans come through the city shortly after the moratorium is lifted.

"It really kind of scares me how this thing could play out," Antonucci said.

Others worried that if pre-application plans were brought in before solidifying the Mountain Town Sub Area Plan, it would do little good for the city or the applicant.

" We are going to be reviewing a pre-ap without anything to compare it to," Councilwoman Susan Dellinger said.

The moratorium is closely tied to the URA, which prompted the rash of pre-applications. The intent of the URA is to raise money to fund public improvements in the vicinity of the ski area 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.

Council members thought a city commitment to do improvements to the area would spur property owners to make upgrades.

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