Steamboat Springs Routt County Commissioners delayed taking action Tuesday on a proposal from Ty Lockhart to develop duplexes on land originally platted for an athletic field at Heritage Park.
The conceptual planned unit development amendment would convert a 1.89-acre parcel along U.S. Highway 40, platted in 1997 for a soccer field, into three duplexes and 0.4 acres of open space. The land was platted as an athletic field - as were four other parcels there - to be preserved from development and for use by homeowners of Heritage Park.
Two parcels were developed as soccer fields and were leased for 20 years to the city of Steamboat Springs. The other three remain empty grass fields. However, in 2005, Great Outdoors Colorado granted $150,000 and the city provided $100,000 in matching funds to develop one of the parcels into a turf soccer field and youth baseball field. The neighborhood opposed the proposal, and the funds were returned.
The Routt County Planning Commission on June 19 approved Lockhart's new proposal, 5-2. The commissioners who voted in opposition of the proposal cited a desire to preserve the opportunity for additional fields.
Commissioners said the five parcels originally were approved as athletic fields for use by Heritage Park homeowners because the neighborhood itself contained no open space. The county requires that 25 percent of all planned unit developments be "useable open space."
Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger expressed concern that by approving Lockhart's requested amendment, the remaining open space, still platted for use as athletic fields, would someday be developed as duplexes.
Because the open space parcels were owned by Lockhart and not overseen publicly by the Heritage Park homeowners association or the Steamboat II Metropolitan District, which maintains recreation areas in Steamboat II and Silver Spur subdivisions, Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak reiterated Monger's concern for future residential development.
"This subdivision could end up with no place to recreate, and that wasn't the intent of the county when it approved the open space policy," she said.
The proposal also concerned some Heritage Park residents.
Lee Pierson, a member of the neighborhood's homeowners association, is opposed to Lockhart's proposal, he said Thursday. Pierson said there are still some potential options for the open space parcels, such as turning them over to the Steamboat II Metro District for public recreational use.
"I think it's premature to give up on those plans," he said.
Pierson said he opposed the development of the turf soccer field and youth baseball field in 2005 because the proposal didn't fit with the original planned unit development that commissioners approved in 1997. Other reasons for opposing that plan were that homeowners weren't consulted, and there wasn't a buffer between the fields and the neighborhood, he said.
Stahoviak added Tuesday that the only way she could approve Lockhart's request was if the other parcels were dedicated "in perpetuity or long term" as open space and given to public entities closely related to the subdivision.
Lockhart said his proposal met the county's open space requirement and reminded commissioners that the surrounding open space parcels still were platted as athletic fields. If he or someone else wanted to develop those into something else, they would have to come before the Planning Commission and county commissioners for approval, Lockhart said.
He said he wasn't prepared to accept the commissioners' condition to keep the open spaces as such in perpetuity because the needs of the community could change.
"I thought at that time, there was a need for athletic fields," Lockhart said about the neighborhood's development in 1997. "Now there isn't."
Lockhart also said keeping control over certain open space parcels would allow him to require certain amenities, like paved parking lots, if they were developed as athletic fields.
Commissioners delayed the discussion until Aug. 11 to give Lockhart time to consider three options: whether to change his proposal to include long-term assurances that the open space parcels would remain open, do nothing or withdraw his request. If he elected not to change the proposal, it would be up to commissioners to approve or deny.
Lockhart said he would think about it.