Steamboat Springs With four projects failing this year in bids to extend the urban growth boundary - and a fifth debating whether to even bother trying - government officials and developers are calling for an overhaul of the UGB amendment procedure.
"This whole process has been a frustration for all involved," Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said Tuesday at a joint meeting of the Steamboat Springs City Council and county commissioners, to review a UGB amendment application submitted by the developers of 360 Village. "We shouldn't be looking at these things piecemeal, one at a time. (The UGB) should be set in stone every five years."
Commissioners and council members voted against 360 Village's application. Monger wasn't the only one to express frustration with the UGB review process along the way.
The urban growth boundary is a provision of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan that delineates land appropriate and not appropriate for urban development. It is a precursor to annexation.
City and county officials jointly review proposed amendments to the UGB annually. They are guided by a set of five policy considerations, one of which states that the existing boundary should be largely built out before expansions are considered. Those who voted against UGB amendment applications this year heavily cited the existence of about 1,000 acres of undeveloped land within the existing UGB.
"I think the frustration is well-founded, and : clearly the staff and the commissioners are holding fast on the 'largely built-out' criteria," said Towny Anderson, who is representing Lyman Orton and his planned development on Emerald Mountain. "Yet they review it every year."
Orton's proposed amendment to the UGB has not been reviewed. After making substantial changes to his application, Orton planned to have it remanded to the city and county planning commissions. Orton and other developers have hoped that overwhelming amounts of public benefit, one of the five policy considerations, would trump concerns such as the "largely built-out" criteria. With the chances of that looking slimmer with each failed application, Anderson said Tuesday that the Emerald Mountain development team is now discussing whether to move their application forward.
In a statement released after their UGB amendment application was denied Tuesday, the developers of 360 Village expressed disappointment that officials were so strictly adhering to the built-out criteria. They cited the results of a Yampa Valley Workforce Housing Demand Analysis presented just before their application was reviewed.
"We were : taken aback that after the release of the (analysis), there was not more acknowledgement from our community leaders that the current urban growth boundary is unable to accommodate housing for our work force," the statement reads. "We were excited that our plan for 360 Village would have been able to provide approximately 390 units at or below 180 (percent of the area median income), and we felt this public benefit alone was enough to justify adding 240 acres to the urban growth boundary."
The project had three sympathizers on City Council, with council members Cari Hermacinski, Jon Quinn and Loui Antonucci voting in favor of the amendment.
"I think the argument is strong that the UGB is not serving the needs of the community," Councilman Walter Magill said. Despite his feelings, Magill voted against the project because the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan is up for review next year. "I'll wait for the larger community to have some input into that."
Danny Mulcahy, who failed last month in his own bid to add 185 acres of his 700-acre Steamboat 700 development to the UGB, said that if officials are unwilling to budge while 1,000 acres remain within the UGB, they should let developers know that and not accept applications to revise the boundary.
"All UGB amendments spent a significant amount of money to go through that process," Mulcahy said. "They need to revise how they accept applications. It shouldn't be a yearly review. For both the community and us to spend time and money doesn't seem very fair."
Tom Leeson, the city's director of planning and community development, said the UGB review process will be considered when the area community plan is revised during 2009 and 2010.
"It has been a frustrating process the last few years - the fact that applicants have brought in proposals and none of them have been approved," Leeson said Thursday. "(We may) change the way we look at this and not give false expectation you might get approved when that hasn't been happening."
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