Steve Lewis: What about the community plan?


— We all have special memories that weave us to this awesome valley. Recently, the deep champagne powder added a nice one for me. Yahoo! And the Wild Game Dinner benefiting Molly Look and Tyler Johnson was a privilege to share - tasty and heartwarming.

Looking further back, one memory I share with many of you always will stand out - gathering at Olympian Hall in the early '90s to create the Steamboat Springs Community Area Plan. That was some powerful weaving.

Three maps, in my memory, really captured what we held in our hands during those meetings. They were maps illustrating three possible growth scenarios for Steamboat Springs. Grow a lot, grow very little, or something in between. It felt so empowering to see the "vote dots" flow onto our collective future. There were a lot of us there. The vibe was incredible. We were making our dreams into one common vision, and it would come true. I was so proud of our valley that day.

The good news is that we as a community continue to share that weaving. Vision 2030 did a fantastic outreach during 2008 to gather our collective visions on a dozen local issues and will publish its report soon. Later this year, we will have more public meetings to once again update the Community Area Plan. I hope you all will participate.

The not so good news? After so much effort by so many citizens to plan their community's direction, elected officials are beginning to ignore us. Intended to guide our decisions and shape our local codes, the Community Area Plan is advisory and not legally binding.

City code Section 26-48(a)(1) puts it this way: "Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan. The city council shall actively promote implementation of the community plan and other adopted plans, through its powers and duties." The expectation is there in black and white, but it really comes down to whether City Council respects a plan of "the people" enough to honor it.

One recent vote suggests such respect may be waning. Policy GM-1.1 in the Community Area Plan defines the Urban Growth Boundary as "a specific area that should be largely built-out before the community expands the boundary." There are nearly 1,000 acres of raw land still within the existing UGB. In considering expansion to our Urban Growth Boundary this past August, all three of our county commissioners referred to Policy GM-1.1 to deny the new UGB expansion. Conversely, a majority of City Council ignored that area plan criteria and voted to approve the expansion. Since approval by both bodies was required, the UGB expansions failed. Thank you, county commissioners.

I'm not against UGB changes. But this community, via the area plan, put a ton of consideration into issues such as the UGB. If any plan element is out of sync with our best future path, updating of that plan element by all of us - not seven of us - is the right solution.

Also troubling was a Jan. 2 commentary in the Steamboat Today by Rob Douglas that seems to undercut the area plan. Douglas wrote: "The city manager's role should be : to competently enact the mandate of the electorate as expressed by the majority of elected representatives at any given point in time."

Not so fast. When it comes to any item covered by the area plan, my belief, and likely the belief of hundreds of plan contributors, is that the mandate of the electorate already is expressed quite well in the plan.

Per above, "The city council shall actively promote implementation of the community (area) plan." That's a mandate in my book.

The Steamboat Springs Community Area Plan has been adopted by the Routt County Planning Commission, the City of Steamboat Springs Planning Commission, the Routt County Board of Commissioners and the City Council of Steamboat Springs. Looks like a mandate to me.

To argue otherwise is to argue that the slogans and catch phrases of a winning election campaign trump the long hours, the consideration and the evolution of ideas documented in the area plan created by "we the people."

Please, City Council, respect our wishes as laid out in the Steamboat Springs Community Area Plan.

Steve Lewis has served on the City Planning Commission and Tax Policy Advisory Board.


Steve Lewis 8 years, 4 months ago

JLM, You're comments are fair. No argument there. I've gotten more positive response than for any previous LTE, so others appreciated my effort. :)

Tele, JLM mentions time frame. That helps I think.

I'll use JLM's frame to restate my belief: If a community's long range goals in adopted plans are not questioned in the election, there's no mandate to support changing those goals.

Have a nice day.


JLM 8 years, 4 months ago

It is not uncommon in municipal government to have a new City Council "ratify" any longstanding community plans.

Long term planning by its very nature requires a time horizon which is longer than the mandate given to any elected official and therefore a careful look and ratification of a longstanding community plan is in order.

Annual updates are an integral part of any long term plan and they provide a logical point in time for ratification. Long range planning is a very desirable element of governance and should be respected and implemented.

There is no reason that long range planning and frequent local elections should be in conflict. In fact, they should be closely related.

Perhaps candidates are being elected because they SUPPORT the long range plan and perhaps they are being elected because they OPPOSE the long range plan but folks should know where they stand.

The plans themselves should be dynamic and require frequent reviews and updates to ensure they are current and timely and reflect current community developments and technology.

Why can't we allllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll just get along?


Steve Lewis 8 years, 4 months ago

Tele, Your interpretation approves a city council move of the UGB. It would be interesting to see how the next election reacted to that UGB move, if the BCC hadn't gotten in their way.

Take a larger case of your beliefs. City Council has the right to erase the UGB. We would have a landslide against your candidate, don't you agree?

Or is there a line you'd choose in between?


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