Steamboat's urban boundary questioned

City, county officials take 1st steps toward new growth policies


— Before city and county officials decide how the community should grow, Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said Tuesday night, a more pressing question could be whether Steamboat residents want the city to grow at all.

“There were a lot of comments made after the Steamboat 700 vote by your citizens that (said) … ‘We’ve given clear direction to our city that we don’t want to grow,’” Stahoviak said to Steamboat Springs City Council members during a meeting to discuss countywide growth issues.

That sentiment, arguably indicated by city voters’ strong rejection of the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation last month, ultimately could mean a change is needed to the urban growth boundary that designates future growth areas outside current city limits, Stahoviak suggested.

“We all need to think seriously about whether or not we need to look at the urban growth boundary,” Stahoviak said.

Enter transfer of development rights programs which were discussed by city and county officials in a crowded Centennial Hall on Tuesday.

A potential city-county TDR program could one day allow some rural landowners to preserve their land from development in exchange for development rights on “receiving areas” within city limits. In those receiving areas, landowners would be able to build in excess of city development codes — in other words, to build higher or with more density than code allows — as an incentive for preserving their rural land and keeping growth close to the county’s urban core of Steamboat Springs.

County commissioners will address a separate proposed TDR program — this one solely for the county — in a public meeting April 27. That version of the program would allow development on 5-acre parcels in specified unincorporated county areas. Commissioner Di­­ane Mitsch Bush called the proposal “a sea change” from the 35-acre development now allowed in the county.

Although Mit­sch Bush advised a cautious, deliberate approach to TDR regulations, Commissioner Doug Monger said now is the time to spur the horse.

“We talk about sprawl — every day we waste an opportunity to move forward on this; we have another 35-acre subdivision moving in,” Monger said. “I’m still very in favor of moving forward and having 5 acres (for development parcels).”

Stahoviak said the commissioners’ differing views on a TDR program throws potential results of the April 27 meeting up in the air.

But if the county moves forward with its TDR program, about 250 5-acre lots could be developed in the Slate Creek area north and west of the land still owned by Steamboat 700 LLC, just west of city limits. Those lots would be intended as a transition from urban development to truly rural areas.

But if Steamboat 700 developers choose to place 35-acre lots on that land, the result could be what City Council President Cari Hermacinski called “a moat” around the city, with the more dense 5-acre parcels outside of the less dense 35-acre parcels.

Councilman Jim Engelken also acknowledged that conundrum.

“If we have receiving zones that are around Steamboat 700 … (and) the developers of Steamboat 700 have suggested they may go to 1 (home) per 35 (acres) — that sort of messes with the whole plan,” Engelken said. “We sort of need to know what’s going to happen with that parcel of land before we get too far down the road.”

That situation could suggest changing the urban growth boundary, Stahoviak said.

City Council members agreed to place a TDR discussion on a future agenda.

Alternative growth policies have come into the spotlight after the city’s denial of Steamboat 700.

“Nobody in their right mind is going to propose an annexation to the city anytime in the near future, I’ll tell you that,” Stahoviak said.


Scott Wedel 7 years ago

So what? After the public votes down SB 700 with far more comments complaining about how the annexation failed to follow community plans than flat out no growth comments, our elected officials plan to blow up all of the community plans? As if there was a public groundswell that would reject 360 Village at the ballot if it were to be approved by the City? Maybe the horrid state of the local real estate market could explain why there is not going to be many annexation requests for a while?

How about this idea? Make it absolutely clear that any 35 acre parcel will be considered for annexation. That there will be no moat recognized by the city. It is entirely likely that for the next 10 years that the best market for SB 700 land would be for 35 acre parcels. But then when market recovers then those parcels could be more valuable as a luxury home on a few acres and 30+ acres of development as per WSSAP.


kathy foos 7 years ago

It seems that the voters didnt like alot of aspects of the 700 proposal but that there was alot of interest inactual growth.I dont think anyone can assume that the voters said there should be no growth.If you want to know the answer to that question put it on the ballot,dont just assume that is what people said in the election.They voted on a specific situation.


Steve Lewis 7 years ago

"No-growth" became a politically convenient label last August as we entered the height of the annexation debate. It was a super simple and political framing of the debate. Unfortunately "no-growth" was equally misleading - its simplistic convenience lead SB700 into underestimating its task and eventually to defeat.

Which is to say I fully agree with Sun and Scott. I can remember a couple posts opposed to all growth, but the chorus using on the no-growth term in this blog was the pro side.

I can understand the county's commissioner's frustration, which I imagine stems from trying to make their own county plans around a city's slow moving urban intentions. And now the 700 vote has put the city's intentions on hold. Its tempting to label the problem as dealing with a no-growth question, but there are no answers behind that label.

"On hold" is the label that works today. The smart move is to wait out some of the current economic unknowns. If Nancy is right about no annexations on the horizon, what's the rush on the UGB?


Steve Lewis 7 years ago

The article fails to mention that Nancy's position is completely opposite that of the County Planning Commission (which seems to agree with Doug Monger) - that PC's position was summed up by the County planning director as "Go ahead with the TDR. Don't wait for area plan revisions". I agree with the County PC.

The "moat" is not a big deal in my opinion. Eventually Steamboat will fill it. We just don't know when. I don't understand the council concerns on the UGB. Its ironic that typically pro-growth voices would be the first to consider shrinking the UGB. Maybe they want to expand it?

Patience is in short supply. BTW, one commissioner told me the last time we updated the SSACP, it cost the county and city around $300,000.

Let's take our time and let things settle down. Maybe update the plans in 3 or 4 years when some trends begin to look like a safe bet.


Scott Wedel 7 years ago

The vote was to reject this particular large development west of town. It was not a vote to declare this parcel as open space or such.

Personally, I think SB 700 could have gotten a portion annexed, but the idea of annexing it all at once was correctly too scary for the voters because the consequences of errors, miscalculations of future trends and so on would compound over the 20+ year build out process.

Actually, an extremely clever local government would be talking about expanding the UGB in order to give more property owners the ability to apply for annexation and providing the room to grow meeting the city's affordable housing and other public benefit requirements. The future of SB and meeting the eventual need for at least some growth is too important to rest solely on the owners of one large parcel.


Mem Tierce 7 years ago

To all growth advocates:

I would like to say “thank you” for making me rich and give me the ability to live where I choose! Currently I choose to live in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. A few years ago I lived on a barrier island near Destin in the panhandle of Florida. It was a beautiful place, sand as white as snow, teeming with birds with the sea full of fish. I owned a good bit of property there; several years ago I told my wife if they keep paving paradise they would make us enough money to move to and live where we chose. And sure enough, the growth advocates took over, paved paradise, made us rich and we moved to Steamboat Springs. And while the growth advocates made us a lot of money they did not improve our or anyone’s quality of life. Yes, we had Wal-Mart super stores, many big-box stores and even larger traffic jams trying to get to them. Yes, the beach was still there, but you could not see it for the high rises and the many people, along with their litter, hiding it. And unfortunately, many of the birds and fish were gone!

Sure, as any place grows for a SHORT time, many of the existing businesses grow and salaries may increase some. But soon more competition comes - chain stores, big-box stores, etc. and many of the local business are forced out of business!

Who gets rich and makes money? THE LAND OWNERS, some of the developers and large corporations. Who must now stand in line, pay more taxes, pay higher rents, put up with traffic jams? YOU DO - THE AVERAGE PERSON.

Again thank you. My Colorado home has more than doubled in price in 3 years, but how does that help my quality of life? The price increases help only if I sell and move again to another (temporarily) unpaved paradise. Signed Mem Tierce


housepoor 7 years ago

Doubled in 3 years? Maybe 04 to 07.... LOL...... So you bought in 07 and it's worth twice as much.


bubba 7 years ago

I was thinking the same thing Housepoor, Mem Tierce might want to read up on some recent real estate news... Although he did say doubled in 'price' not 'value...' I would be impressed if any property values have increased over the last three years, but there are certainly properties on the MLS with a listing price that has increased...


blue_spruce 7 years ago

"..."On hold" is the label that works today. The smart move is to wait out some of the current economic unknowns. If Nancy is right about no annexations on the horizon, what's the rush on the UGB?..."

thank you. unfortunately no amount of optimism is going to change the current market situation. this is going to be a long road to recovery. let's please not rush anything at this point.


brian ferguson 7 years ago

I think Mem"s point is "dont pave paradise"

I wouldnt be suprised if Mem doesnt care how much more their property is worth in 5 10 years.

Not everyone on this planet is a greedy scumbag.

Some people just like living in a nice place.


Karen_Dixon 7 years ago

The thing is, Mem. When YOU take the action to move to paradise, you become part of the reason that particular paradise changes. You are part of your own problem - trapped in your own logic.


sledneck 7 years ago

Hee Hee Hee! good one Karen.

Not only don't pave it but close the ski hill. I'll gladly take the hit on my real estate to see that happen.

And by the way, I may not be a "greedy scumbag" but I am a "capitalist pig". Even pigs like a nice, spacious pen... and we do have plenty of room to root around here!


Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.