Steamboat Springs Members of the Routt County Planning Commission seem to agree that transfer of development rights regulations could be put to good use as a tool to manage growth in the county. But on Thursday night, they voted against a draft measure anyway.
The vote was 6-2 against the proposed TDR regulations, with commissioners Bill Norris and Terry Hunter dissenting.
“Don’t assume there’s a member of this board who isn’t in favor of TDR,” Commission Chairman Don Alperti said at the end of the night. “We’ve pushed it all along.”
As it turned out, the majority “no” vote was partly procedural. County Planning Director Chad Phillips explained to the commission at the outset that the Routt County Board of Commissioners was asking for an up or down vote in order to keep the matter on the agenda for an April 20 joint meeting with the Steamboat Springs City Council in Centennial Hall.
Under other circumstances, the Planning Commission might have tabled the matter for further study.
The transfer of development rights embodies a business transaction and a planning tool that would strip the rights to developing future housing subdivisions away from a piece of rural land with working agriculture, prized wildlife habitat or scenic value, and shift it onto designated receiving lands closer to existing urban centers. The owner of the receiving land would compensate the sender for transferring his development rights.
The regulations being contemplated by Routt County would create a development receiving area that would wrap around Steamboat Springs to the north and west in a crescent just beyond the urban growth boundary. It’s meant to serve as a transitional zone between more dense development inside the UGB and truly rural land farther out. The receiving area could someday accommodate as many as 250, 5-acre single-family building lots.
The majority of planning commissioners agreed that the regulations aren’t yet detailed enough.
“I believe in the TDR process. I believe it has a place in the county,” Planning Commissioner John Ayer said. “The draft version we have here tonight needs more work.”
The commission sent a message that they’d like to see the county revisit the way the map of sending areas is drawn and give subdivision developers more flexibility rather than insisting on one house for every 5 acres.
In recent weeks, some residents have called TDR just another example of urban sprawl, and others have called it a wise way to manage future growth they say is inevitable.
The discussion drew about 35 members of the public to the Routt County Courthouse to weigh in.
North Routt resident Mike Zuckerman was brief but emphatic in his opposition to the proposed regulations.
“I’m against the TDR concept,” Zuckerman said. “Population growth runs counter to the quality of rural life in Routt County.”
Two former planning commissioners, one from the county and one from the city, also stood up to speak.
Former County Planning Commissioner Troy Brookshire said he was mystified at how the decision was made to expand the map of the receiving area to the north and east of Elk River Road (Routt County Road 129).
“Be careful that the message you send is that the county still likes to be rural,” Brookshire said. “TDR is meant to protect active ag and wildlife habitat — east of 129, that’s what you’re now going to get rid of. Maybe that’s harsh language, (but that land) retains those features you’re requiring petitioners to preserve in their sending areas.”
Former Steamboat Springs Planning Commissioner Tony Connell said he served in 1999 when Steamboat Springs first contemplated TDR regulations.
“In 1999 the people we had in mind for these 5-acre lots were middle-class families — I’m going to call them 4-H families — who wanted to have a horse, or maybe just throw a ball for a dog without the need for a leash, or wanted to have chickens without an ordinance,” Connell said, “people who wanted to have that rural character of life without having to go to Stagecoach or North Routt.”
City and county officials will have the chance April 20 to compare notes on the quality of rural life in the valley.