Steamboat mulls development review changes

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Past Event

Steamboat Springs Planning Commission meeting

  • Thursday, January 26, 2012, 5 p.m.
  • Centennial Hall, 124 10th St., Steamboat Springs
  • All ages / Free

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— Proposed changes to the city’s development review process that would allow some commercial and multifamily projects that meet code to be approved administratively will be up for public discussion at a Steamboat Springs Planning Commission meeting Thursday.

Planning Director Tyler Gibbs said the changes would streamline the process for developers and the city by allowing those projects that aren’t seeking variances from the Community Development Code to be approved without Planning Commission and City Council review. He also said the changes would allow community members to provide input during a public hearing at the beginning of the development review process instead of at the end.

Ultimately, Gibbs said the revised process would let developers know whether their project is acceptable before making significant financial investments.

“Right now an awful lot of the cost of proposing the development is just getting through the process,” Gibbs said. “I think as a community we’d much rather see that investment go into quality construction and good design and not just to get through an unnecessarily difficult process.”

The Planning Commission and City Council still would have the opportunity to “call up” for review projects that were set to be approved administratively but that might not be conforming to all codes. Development applications that included variances from the development code would be presented during a public hearing and then would be up for consideration by the Planning Commission and the City Council.

Gibbs also said community members still would be notified about projects that might affect them, regardless of whether the projects conformed with existing code.

Planning Commission member Rich Levy said he worries that some criteria of the development code are subjective, such as architectural guidelines and how a design fits into the rest of a neighborhood. He said a second review of those subject criteria is important.

“In theory I like the direction,” Levy said about streamlining the development review process. “There have been plenty of applications that have come before Planning Commission (in the past) that have been redundant. But there have been plenty that needed Planning Commission oversight. And I’m concerned we’ll lose that.”

Gibbs said subjective criteria always have been a challenge. He said any project not consistent with the city’s development code would be considered by the Planning Commission and City Council.

The code is based on the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan, Gibbs said. He said the community should be able to rely on a predictable development code and a reliable process.

Levy encouraged the public to attend tonight’s meeting and to share their thoughts on the proposed changes to the process.

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Steve Lewis 2 years, 11 months ago

Scott W., I think this sentence from the packet, bottom of page 3-12, is pretty much the same argument you made after Walgreens approval.

"If the process of determining whether or not a development proposal is in conformance with all the development standards is a question of contention, then criteria for review and approval and/or development standards should be reevaluated to ensure clear and consistent application."

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 11 months ago

Same page:

"Currently all commercial, industrial, and multifamily development and subdivision proposals of a certain size are heard by Planning Commission and City Council at a public hearing... Denial can only be based on non-conformance with an adopted development standard. Because proposals that are in conformance with all the development standards in the CDC cannot be denied at Planning Commission or City Council, processing conforming proposals through public hearings puts unnecessary time and cost obligations on an applicant and creates false expectations for the public."

"In order to avoid unnecessary cost, time and uncertainty the Community Development Code should expedite projects that are consistent with development standards thereby facilitating the efficient implementation of the community’s vision. On the other hand, projects that choose to request significant variations from the CDC should receive prompt public review and direction prior to the investment of substantial time and design cost."

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 11 months ago

I have other complaints with this proposal, but the most easily expressed is conflict of interest.

Conflict of interest leads citizens sitting on planning commission or city council recuse themselves on a regular basis. On some items they are asked to step down and refuse.

If the intent is to make administrative approval the norm rather than the exception, what assurance does the community have that favoritism or retribution will not be a part of the administrator's decision?

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 11 months ago

When I served on planning commission I felt my role was to be the representative of the greater community. I was their "peer review", and my vote should express what they would want.

Another important role in that process was still held by the greater community. Any citizen could come to a project's hearing and complain against it or advocate for it, often expressing a view or reason I had not weighed or anticipated.

The proposed Processes Revision in this packet would scale those roles back significantly and, for many projects, remove them entirely. In their place would be what remains of the existing process: professional staff and developer applicants.

Is this what our charter intended?

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 11 months ago

Steve, I recall that the Walgreen's issue was that a chunk of the code was ignored as not being a good idea or relevant for that project. And instead of removing the code that was acknowledged as not applying to this project and not being worthwhile, they approved the project while keeping the discredited code. I don't recall it being a question of contention for Walgreens. It was more a question of saying there was a situation where some of the code didn't apply, but not changing the code so that those views would apply to other projects.

So this is different than Walgreens issue. This is not the situation of saying if the code can be understood to have different meanings then it should be clarified. Walgreens was saying the code is understood, but contains bad or irrelevant ideas, and leaving those (bad) ideas in the code.

The Walgreens experience on variances would be for Planning, after issuing variances for a project, to consider whether the variances were because of truly special circumstances of the project or reflect outdated, bad code or unrealistic code that Planning no longer plans to enforce and so should be removed.


And if the project is conforming and there is no legal basis for denying the application then why shouldn't it be administratively approved? If there is a belief that the rules are wrong to allow this sort of project then it is too late to legally affect this project. So it may make sense to have a meeting on the rules affecting this project, but a meeting on rules issues can always be held. There is no particular reason to make the applicants suffer through a meeting when they have a conforming project.

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pitpoodle 2 years, 11 months ago

Planning Director Tyler Gibbs said the changes would streamline the process for developers. His plan is to make decisions behind closed doors and eliminate public comment as much as possible. That is what he wants. Is it what we want?

Mr. Gibbs believes in streamlining the process for developers at the expense of our local control, our wetlands, signed annexation agreements, SBS Community Area Plan, and above all he apparently wants to stifle the voices of the public. He is the planning director but wants to be King instead.

Let’s review his record: At the end of last year, he single-handedly reversed a decision by a former planning director, planning commission (a decision previously upheld by Council) to allow a developer to fill wetlands that were formerly prohibited by an annexation agreement signed by the city in 2004. He decided it was more important to allow a huge building on two tiny lots, by filling the wetlands, so that the developer could sell his property at a higher price.

This staff member has no accountability to the public, as he is appointed and can hide in his office to make decisions that affect us all. From what I can see, he will continue to use his power to lower our community standards and destroy the sovereignty of the SBS Area Plans and CDC. Council has already allowed him to make broad plan changes at either his whim or by listening to people who lobby him in private at the expense of the rest of us.

The future of our environment and quality of life does not lie with allowing Gibbs to have even more control.

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sledneck 2 years, 11 months ago

Nor does it lie with calling insignificant spits of mosquito infested swamps "wetlands".

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 11 months ago

Scott, Your last paragraph is most of the idea, in its 1st and last sentences. Plenty of time to discuss that.

Pitpoodle, I disagree with the power this proposal would give to City staff. But it is hard to align myself with your tone. Let's not get personal.

A precursor to this revamp has already been unanimously approved by PC and CC, in the form of recent Zone Use Chart changes - turning some Conditional Uses into Uses By Right. In my view Mr. Gibbs may have already won the first half of his argument in those chambers.

The problem is, by and large, the public never knew about it.

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pitpoodle 2 years, 11 months ago

Lewi, I am not asking you to like or not like my tone. You don't like it, too bad.

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