Even as city and county officials review five requests to extend Steamboat Springs' urban growth boundary, a substantial amount of land remains undeveloped not only within the UGB, but also in city limits.
At a discussion hosted Wednesday by the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley, John Eastman said areas within the UGB - a boundary that delineates land appropriate and not appropriate for urban development, and originally implemented as a growth tool in 1995 - should be largely built out before expansions are considered.
The success of this year's requests to extend the UGB could depend on how important the city's and county's elected decision-makers consider this principle.
"There is substantial infill development potential within the existing city limits of Steamboat Springs," said Eastman, planning services manager for the city. "In terms of talking about the growth of Steamboat Springs, I don't think the discussion is all about west Steamboat."
Steamboat resident Bob Enever attended the event and suggested during a question-and-answer session that approving any UGB amendments when a substantial amount of land remains undeveloped within the existing boundary would be akin to sanctioning sprawl.
Eastman gave a presentation with county planner Ellen Hoj at the alliance event, which was designed to educate the public on the history of the UGB, the amendment process and its relationship to annexation.
"If land is within the urban growth boundary, it doesn't mean it's eligible for urban densities - yet," Eastman said. "It still must be annexed. : The urban growth boundary is just one piece of that effort to direct the type and quantity of growth."
Hoj, who also has experience as a private developer, explained why developers often prefer open land outside the outskirts of a community as opposed to infill development. Hoj said infill development presents challenges such as working with and around existing underground infrastructure. Hoj said these headaches sometimes outweigh what might be a more challenging review process outside of existing city limits.
"Any developer can roll the dice," Hoj said. "They have a legal right to have due process."
One hundred and eighty-five acres of the proposed 700-acre Steamboat 700 project lie outside the UGB. The proposed 360 Village development includes 240 acres outside the UGB. That project totals 350 acres. The entire 464-acre Emerald Mountain parcel that owner Lyman Orton hopes to develop lies outside the UGB.
Eastman noted that these three requests, if approved, would effectively double the amount of land within the UGB. The total growth potential in the west of Steamboat Springs area would double the city's population.
The two smaller applications among the five are for a half-acre lot owned by Butch Dougherty and for 40 acres owned by Alex Koftinow, who proposes 26 dwelling units along the Yampa River.
The Steamboat Springs City Council and Routt County Board of County Commissioners will jointly review the proposals at a meeting Aug. 12. City and county planning commissioners already have reviewed them.
Of the five applications, Dougherty's is the only one to receive support from the city and county planning commissions. In two narrowly divided votes, Steamboat 700 won a recommendation from the city planning commission but was voted down by county planning commissioners.
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