Steamboat Springs When asked to identify a target number of residential units to accommodate in the community's growth area west of the city, Steamboat Springs planning commissioners answered with numbers that varied by about 10,000 units.
Nonetheless, Planning Services Manager John Eastman said he heard a level of consensus that will allow the city to move forward with infrastructure plans and studies for the 1,100-acre area that includes two projects actively seeking annexation. The question still awaits review by the Steamboat Springs City Council.
The city's West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan included about 1,100 acres of vacant land and a target build-out of 1,100 to 2,635 units, or 1 to 2.4 dwelling units per acre. Steamboat 700 and 360 Village are proposing more than 2,900 units on 620 of those acres, or 4.8 dwelling units per acre. The city also estimates an additional 925 dwelling units can be expected within existing city limits west of 13th Street.
The purpose of Thursday's Steamboat Springs Planning Commission meeting, Eastman said, was to make sure commissioners are OK with growth that, based on development that has occurred in recent years and proposed projections, is outpacing expectations. Although commissioners figures varied substantially - from 1,100 to more than 11,000 - all but one expressed comfort with a number 3,000 or higher.
"I heard yes," Eastman said. "If there's general consensus to essentially accommodate everybody who is at the table, that's OK at this point."
Eastman also noted the commissioner who suggested 1,100, Cedar Beauregard, added the caveat that he would be open to more units if infrastructure needs - namely those related to traffic - are met. The purpose of identifying a target build-out number was to develop plans that would do just that.
"It's not that I don't like development," Beauregard said. "I just think we need to solve the access issue first."
Commissioners and developers said they felt the city and county's West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan was somewhat contradictory. They said it expresses desires such as affordable housing, transit-oriented development and vibrant mixed-use neighborhoods, yet prescribes a target build-out that makes such goals unattainable.
"We're implementing your plan to the T," Peter Patten, a consultant representing Steamboat 700, said while arguing for the development's proposed density.
Fred Duckels spoke during public comment and urged commissioners to "think big" and plan for the potential development of the entire area. Duckels said that would be much easier than running into insufficient infrastructure down the road. Commissioner Karen Dixon, who proposed a target build-out of 11,462 residential units, said her thinking was in line with Duckels.
"If attainable, affordable housing is our goal, I don't want traffic : to limit our chances," Dixon said. "We have to assume that this plan is achievable."
The other commissioners at Thursday's meeting - Brian Hanlen, Sarah Fox, Dick Curtis and Chairwoman Kathi Meyer - cited numbers from 2,600 to 5,000. Commissioner Tom Ernst, who is working with the developers of 360 Village, did not participate in the discussion.