Steamboat Springs The developers of Song Mountain agreed Tuesday to change their tune before they come back to the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Aug. 25. They'll present a revised version of their plan to build a residential subdivision of as many as 272 lots on 896 acres overlooking Stagecoach Reservoir.
The commissioners voted unanimously after four hours of discussion to table the proposal so that consultants working for a Florida couple, Ji-ang and Young Song, can answer their concerns.
The Routt County Planning Commission already had voted, 5-2, on May 21 to recommend denial of the project. And like the Planning Commission, the county commissioners had issues with the proposal.
Commission Chairman Doug Monger registered skepticism about the appeal of the lots in the subdivision after hearing Ji-ang Song say he hoped to emulate The Sanctuary in Steamboat Springs.
"On my site visit, I was astounded," Monger said. "I wouldn't live out there if you paid me. I can't imagine living out there in a Sanctuary-style development. This may be appropriate around Steamboat; it's not appropriate out there. This is very troubling for me."
The Songs paid $5.5 million in March 2006 to acquire a sprawling piece of property from the estate of Bob Adams that wraps around Woodchuck Mountain. The peak topped with volcanic rock dominates views from Stagecoach State Park and existing residential subdivisions on the south shore of Stagecoach Reservoir. Development would take place on a minority of the overall 2,500 acres.
"This is a very important project for us," Song told the commissioners. "We as a family would love to be in Routt County. We have a house on Buffalo Pass. My purpose is to do the right thing."
Do the right thing
As far as the commissioners are concerned, doing the right thing includes redesigning the layout of the subdivision so it is less linear and more clustered. They want more detail about the steep interior roads that will necessitate aggressive cuts and fills.
Monger wants more information about how the developers intend to phase in the lots. In addition to the site for a new fire station and the water wells and storage tanks the Songs have agreed to build, Monger wants more details about how they would help the South Routt School District with a new school building somewhere in Stagecoach.
Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak would like to see a mechanism to ensure 433 acres of open space in the plan could be made permanent. And Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush wants a better understanding of the visual impacts of the new subdivision.
The petition by Song Mountain was threefold, including rezoning the development land and seeking approval of a Conceptual PUD and a Sketch Subdivision Plan.
"There's a lot that needs to be changed in the conceptual plan," Bush said. "And right now, I could not approve of the zoning change because of visual issues, wildlife issues, light pollution and road issues."
Ask the neighbors
The commissioners also heard from about a dozen Stagecoach residents who were among an audience of about 30 people. Some favored Song Mountain, and some thought much more work needed to be done.
"We feel that what has been proposed here is not consistent with the (Stagecoach Community) plan," Rich Saterdal said. "The main point is land use. And County Road 16 needs to be straightened and paved. There are road issues that stretch all the way to Steamboat."
Tony Stich liked the idea of more development coming to Stagecoach.
"There's a lot of benefit that will come to the rest of Stagecoach through the approval of this plan," he said.
In the end, the complexity of the request contributed to the vote to table the project.
The Song Mountain Plan also is complicated by a hodgepodge of 35-year-old zoning maps for Stagecoach that no longer fit the the county master plan. The Song Mountain proposal includes a large tract of land zoned agriculture/forestry bracketed by two smaller parcels zoned in the early 1970s for high-density residential development. In theory, Song Mountain could apply to build 2,700 dwellings on those parcels, consultant Peter Patten pointed out. The zoning is a holdover from the days when Stagecoach was planned for a commercial ski area.
Monger rankled at what he views as an implied threat that a contemporary developer might actually build to that level.
"Stagecoach in itself is problematic," Monger said. "We spend a lot of our time struggling with the problems out there."
Stahoviak said she was willing to approve the zone change to PUD because she thinks making the high-density residential parcels go away is a substantial public benefit.
"I believe the zone change is consistent with the (county) master plan," she said. "It's near what we've designated as a growth area. We are seeing a community that has been master planned."
Song said he was willing to continue trying to help solve the problems at Stagecoach.
"The comments I hear were mostly very reasonable," Song said. "I appreciate how thoughtful they were. If the plan is not right, it affects me, as well."
However, he also hinted that at some point, the growing costs could mean the project is no longer viable.
"By the time it all adds up, I may not have a project," he said. "If it doesn't, I'll sell it and move on. That's the way our free society works."