Our View: Heritage Park proposal needs work

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At issue

Heritage Park development proposal

Our view

Lockhart, county must come to agreement on dedication of open space.

Editorial Board, June 2009 to September 2009

  • Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Grant Fenton, community representative
  • Paul Strong, 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.

— Forgive us for being overcome with a sense of dej√É vu. Ty Lockhart and Heritage Park homeowners again are on different sides of the fence regarding proposed changes to the subdivision off U.S. Highway 40 west of Steamboat Springs. And although we've previously had a hard time sympathizing with the homeowners there, we agree that Lockhart's proposal - as submitted - to build three duplexes on a parcel of land platted for an athletics field falls short of acceptability.

Lockhart developed Heritage Park in the late 1990s, and part of the Routt County-approved planned unit development called for five parcels of open space to be used for athletic fields. Lockhart retained ownership of the parcels, one of which he gifted to the Christian Heritage School Foundation. But the PUD failed to specify a timeline or funding source for athletic field development.

Nonetheless, using Great Outdoors Colorado lottery funds and volunteer labor, two soccer fields were built on two of the open parcels. Through a 20-year agreement with Lockhart, the city of Steamboat Springs maintains those fields and leases them for $1 a year.

A proposal to develop a multi-use field on one of the other parcels stalled in 2005 after Heritage Park homeowners battled the city and Lockhart because of its proposed use, which included Triple Crown baseball games. Neighbors complained about the potential traffic and noise in their subdivision; those complaints coupled with a higher-than-anticipated price tag doomed the development of the field, and the city of Steamboat Springs returned a $150,000 GOCO grant that would have helped fund it.

Then, in 2006, Lockhart presented preliminary plans to the Routt County Planning Commission that called for the construction of four duplexes and three single-family homes on two of the open parcels in Heritage Park.

"If the homeowners don't want fields there, we'll switch horses and put lots there," Lockhart said at the time. And we sympathized with his position. Heritage Park homeowners seem to want it both ways - open space for athletic fields when it would prevent additional development, and no development of athletic fields when it would mean increased usage and traffic to their neighborhood.

Lockhart's most recent proposal to build three duplexes on the parcel of land adjacent to U.S. Highway 40 at the entrance to Heritage Park, while certainly scaled back from his 2006 plans, not only takes away one of the parcels originally set aside for athletic fields but fails to provide any sort of community or neighborhood benefit in return.

The Routt County Planning Commission approved Lockhart's proposal by a 5-2 vote in June, but it ran into a stumbling block when reviewed by the Routt County Board of Commissioners last week. Commissioners Nancy Stahoviak and Doug Monger correctly wondered what sort of assurance the county could get from Lockhart that the other four open parcels in Heritage Park would remain protected from future development. Lockhart hesitated to give any long-term commitment to the use of the remaining parcels, and the commissioners tabled his request. They've asked him to consider revising it before the issue returns to the commissioners Aug. 11.

We agree with the commissioners that if Lockhart wants to take away one of the parcels originally platted for athletic fields, he should provide something in return. On Tuesday, Lockhart said he's come up with a proposal that he thinks will satisfy the county and Heritage Park homeowners. He declined to offer any details until he presents the plan to the other stakeholder groups.

We hope Lockhart's proposal offers clear community benefit. If it doesn't, the commissioners should turn down the amended PUD.

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