Our View: Expand UGB for 700


Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008

  • Bryna Larsen, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Eric Morris, community representative
  • Paul Draper, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— An expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary to accommodate Steamboat 700 is appropriate this year, but the UGB should not be amended at this time for 360 Village or proposals on the north side of Emerald Mountain and at the River Haus site south of Steamboat Springs.

There are strong reasons for each part of that statement, but first, the proposals must be looked at together. Because make no mistake, the cumulative weight of this year's potential UGB expansions is changing the conversation about how, where and when Steamboat Springs should grow.

Just ask Tom Leeson, who does not mince words when asked whether the 2008 batch of proposed expansions is the largest he's seen.

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

The five projects on the table total 929.5 acres of potential additions to the UGB, which was established by the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan in 1995 and delineates between land designated for urban and rural use. City and county officials jointly approve the Community Plan.

While a UGB expansion is a precursor to annexation, it does not at all guarantee a site's annexation into Steamboat's city limits, nor approval of any development plan for that site.

But, as Leeson noted, a UGB expansion does involve discussions of "conceptual plans for development," in order to assess a proposal's compliance with UGB criteria and determine whether future development would be appropriate.

Those discussions are what make Steamboat 700 stand out.

The entire Steamboat 700 site - including the 185 acres outside the UGB - is within the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, which designates the area for urban development. The 700-acre site is adjacent to city limits and has been in the public eye since March 2007, when Steamboat 700, LLC, purchased 540 acres for $24.6 million, with the remaining acreage under contract.

Since their purchase, Steamboat 700 developers have made clear their intentions for a planned community that will provide benefits including much-needed affordable housing for the Yampa Valley.

Preparation for Steamboat 700 has long been under way. The Steamboat Springs City Council - largely elected in campaigns that debated and vetted 700's future - reviewed city annexation policies in December 2007 and hosted 700's first significant public presentations in February.

Conversely, city planners received the proposal for 360 Village in May. Lyman Orton announced his conceptual plans for Emerald Mountain just weeks ago. The 360 Village site, west of Steamboat II, is not adjacent to city limits and would require an unconventional "flagpole extension" of those limits along the U.S. Highway 40 corridor. The Emerald Mountain and River Haus sites affect open space, recreation areas, conservation easements and the Yampa River - all worthy of larger public discussion about where growth should occur.

None of those sites have been discussed for development through an extended community planning process.

That opportunity will come in 2009, however, when city and county officials conduct their five-year review and revision of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan. That is the proper forum for discussing growth at 360 Village, Emerald Mountain and River Haus.

Development on the Steamboat 700 site was thoroughly reviewed in the late 1990s for the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan. Extending the UGB for Steamboat 700 and allowing that project to move forward in its entirety is now a proper step.

And it's only a step - Steamboat 700 faces extensive review with the potential annexation process and development plans for the site, as our city's dynamic conversation about growth continues.


mama 8 years, 8 months ago

FYI: the bulk of 360, just like 700, is already within WSSAP. In addition, flag pole annexations are not "unconventional" and are quite common throughout the state. Take a quick look at Hayden who has done it twice now.


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