UGB confusion resolved

Two expansion requests will be removed from today's agenda

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If you go

What: Steamboat Springs City Council meeting

When: 4 p.m. today

Where: Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.

Call: City offices at 879-2060 for more information

— City and county officials have agreed that proposals to extend the urban growth boundary will fail unless they gain the approval of both the Steamboat Springs City Council and the Routt County Board of Commissioners.

And while the city of Steamboat Springs is not bound by the urban growth boundary when it comes to considering potential annexations, disregarding it would be "political suicide," Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski said Monday.

The two elected bodies meet jointly today to consider UGB amendments.

Officials in both the city and county planning departments discussed in recent weeks - and as recently as Monday - confusion about what would happen if one body approved an application, but the other denied it.

The urban growth boundary is a boundary that delineates parcels of land appropriate and not appropriate for urban development. It was first established as a growth tool by the 1995 Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan and was accompanied by an intergovernmental agreement between the city and county in 1996. That agreement states "any adoption of an amendment to the Urban Boundary shall be made after public hearings by both the City and County in accordance with the then applicable regulations."

"In the past, City Council and the Board of County Commissioners have interpreted that to mean both entities have to approve an application," city planner Jason Peasley said Monday. "That's historical. I don't know what could happen."

It appears the two bodies will stick to tradition.

"That means it failed," City Council President Pro Tem Cari Hermacinski said Monday of the possibility of conflicting votes.

Hermacinski also said an application will fail if the seven-member City Council ties on a vote in the absence of Council President Loui Antonucci.

"If we have a 3-3 (vote)," she said, "that's a fail."

Routt County Commissioners Diane Mitsch Bush and Nancy Stahoviak laid out the same process Monday. Hermacinski said she and Mitsch Bush spoke on Monday to confirm the need for amendments to the area community plan to receive joint approval. It is possible, however, that the city could disregard the UGB and move forward with the annexation of projects such as Steamboat 700, the 700-acre project west of city limits that proposes about 2,000 homes and other uses. State statute governs annexations.

"We've never really dealt with that issue, but I don't think it's binding," City Attorney Tony Lettunich said of the area community plan. "Master plans are generally considered advisory."

Hermacinski agreed, but doubted council would ever attempt such a move.

"If we disagree and there's no change to the UGB, that doesn't mean we can't annex it," Hermacinski said. "But to do so would be to disregard the community plan. : Most politicians wouldn't want to go against the community plan. I think that would probably be political suicide."

Unprecedented

While in place for over a decade, the UGB review process is receiving unprecedented attention this year with five applications totaling 929.5 acres. Developers propose 618 to 808 dwelling units within those acres.

"We've had this many applications before, but they were all smaller in size and scope," Tom Leeson, the city's planning and community development director, said last month. "In terms of potential build-out and density, this is by far the largest we've seen at one time."

Two out of three major projects will be pulled from the agenda today, though. Lyman Orton has requested his development proposal on Emerald Mountain be remanded to the city and county planning commissions, and the developers of 360 Village have requested a postponement of their consideration by council members and commissioners.

Hermacinski, who will preside over the meeting in the absence of Antonucci, said public comment would not be taken on either proposal. Final decisions on three other proposed UGB expansions are expected tonight.

Development partner Tony Connell said 360 Village is requesting its postponement because it was tabled at hearings with the city and county planning commissions. Throughout the UGB review process, 360 Village has been scheduled last among the five applicants. Connell said 360 Village would rather preemptively postpone itself so that its supporters and consultants are not inconvenienced needlessly, and so that the proposal can be reviewed "at a reasonable hour."

Towny Anderson, who is representing Orton, said there have been substantial changes to the Emerald Mountain proposal.

"Typically with a development permit, if there's a substantial change, you go back through the planning commission," Anderson said.

Peasley said the new Emerald Mountain application has been pared down to 210 acres from 464 acres. Orton owns 1,200 contiguous acres on the mountain south of downtown Steamboat Springs. In addition to reducing the size of his request, Orton has clustered the proposed development downhill and closer to the existing Fairview neighborhood.

"Obviously, everyone is very taken by the public benefit," said Anderson, noting the project's commitment to open space and affordable housing. "What folks wanted to see was more of a connection with Fairview and the rest of the city. : This change does that."

Peasley said the changes make the Emerald Mountain application a more logical UGB expansion.

"We haven't had an opportunity to analyze this," Peasley said, "but it's certainly a step in the right direction."

Both the 360 Village and Emerald Mountain applications will be rescheduled for later joint meetings of the City Council and Board of County Commissioners. Left on the agenda for tonight is Steamboat 700, 185 acres of which is outside the UGB. The two smaller applications among the five also remain. One is for a half-acre lot owned by the Butch Dougherty. The other application is a 40-acre expansion of the UGB proposed by Rod and Vicky Hanna that would include 17 dwelling units near the Yampa River.

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210 or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

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