3-D software aids city planning

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A 3-D software application highlighting Main Street could one day serve as a detailed, data-filled planning tool for the city, officials said Tuesday.

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission Tuesday night saw a presentation of a program called CommunityViz, which provides geographic information systems-based analysis and real-world 3-D modeling to allow people to visualize land uses.

The commission: Unanimously voted to deny an application to rezone a parcel in the Miller Frazier Addition from industrial to multi-family. The lots in the application were located on the northwest corner of Evans Street and Saratoga Avenue. About 25 residents who live near the lots came to express their opposition to the application.

Unanimously voted to table a proposed text amendment to the community's development code. The change would have authorized the City Council to require a Historic Structure Assessment as an additional submittal requirement for certain plan applications. The commission asked city staff to make some revisions to the proposed amendment

The program was developed by the Orton Family Foundation, which aims to adopt land use planning to make communities vibrant and sustainable. The program is being applied to Steamboat through a partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Main Street Steamboat Springs.

Ken Snyder of the Orton Family Foundation presented the program, which focuses on Lincoln Avenue and is called Main Street Viz, to the commissioners. The software allows people to "fly through" Lincoln and look at buildings from different perspectives.

One of the strengths of the program, Snyder said, is that it is a quick tool. Photographs and artist renderings can be used to show a building's appearance.

Gavin Malia, who works in the city's geographic information systems department, said the software could be a tool not only for the planning commission and the City Council, but also for the public to identify the appearance of a proposed project.

Snyder said the program has the potential to make planning easier. With the right data, he said, the software could project indicators involving demographics, economics, the environment and traffic mobility.

Eventually, Snyder said, the software may be able to provide analysis such as a project's effect on wages, the effects of retail versus commercial space and the cost of services.

Tracy Barnett, the manager of Main Street Steamboat Springs and a member of the Planning Commission, told fellow commissioners that the project was exciting.

"We were pretty excited to get involved with this," Barnett said.

One of Main Street's goals is to write position statements, Barnett said. She anticipates the software could help the organization develop these positions.

Snyder also led a keypad voting demonstration in which members of the audience were given handheld keypads to vote on various issues. Snyder said the keypads were effective during a meeting in Hayden last year.

"That analysis was really helping in determining what type of growth that Hayden wanted to see," Snyder said.

--o reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229

or e-mail dstrongin@steamboatpilot.com

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