Ben Beall: Boundary not flawed

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Dear editor,

There is a land-use proposal being discussed by the City of Steamboat Springs and Routt County. This proposal to modify the criteria for changes to the Urban Growth Boundary could affect the long-term quality of life of our community. This initiative is under the radar even though it is the most important land-use proposal since Steamboat 700.

The Steamboat Springs City Council and the Routt County commissioners have asked their planning staffs to recommend changes to the criteria for approvals of changes to the UGB. The Steamboat Springs Planning staff, with direction from the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission and concurrence from City Council, has a list of changes that they are proposing. These changes would make it easier for additional rural lands to be open for urban growth. Instead of being a “hard” boundary, these changes would make it easier for the UGB to be changed.

The Urban Growth Boundary was proposed in Vision 2020 (1994) and institutionalized by map in the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan (1994) as “ … the demarcation between those areas where future development of urban density and nature is deemed appropriate or inappropriate.” Since the UGB was adopted in 1994, it has been continually ratified by the community in the West of Steamboat Area Plan (1999 and updated in 2006), the update of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan (2004), Vision 2030 (2009) and by citizens in their comments in 2011 for the update to the Steamboat Sprungs Area Community Plan. The UGB has exemplified the community vision of directing growth to Steamboat Springs, in-fill development, and maintaining Routt County’s rural lands.

The City Council and the commissioners are looking at the criteria as flawed because there haven’t been any approvals for changes to the UGB. Instead, the UGB should be held up as the most successful land-use tool jointly adopted by Steamboat Springs and Routt County. The UGB has helped to manage growth and build the type of community we want.

One of several criteria that has been proposed to be deleted is “Public Benefit.” “Public Benefit” could be affordable housing, a new park, trail extensions, public infrastructure and/or land conservation. Why would the community not want to have a “Public Benefit” to mitigate for the impact of an increase in urban development and the loss of rural lands?

A better approach, instead of changing successful criteria, would be for the City Council and the commissioners to direct their planning staffs to review the existing urban growth boundary and propose boundary changes that conform to the present community vision. The proposed changes should ensure the following:

On the east: The South Valley should be protected. The UGB should be drawn closer to the city of Steamboat Springs to protect the Yampa River and the municipal well fields used for potable water.

On the north: Spring Creek Mountain Park, Strawberry Park, the Soda Creek Valley and Copper Ridge should be protected from urban or rural sprawl style development.

On the south: The Yampa River, Howelsen Hill/Emerald Mountain and the West Yampa River Valley should be protected from urban or rural sprawl style development.

On the west: The division between the rural Elk River Valley and development adjacent to Bob Adam’s Field needs to be maintained. Move the UGB in the West Steamboat area to align with Slate Creek. Designate this as UGB 2025 (year). Designate the original UGB further to the west as UGB 2045 (year). This designation would correspond more closely with the intent of the West Steamboat Area Plan, which had the vision of development proceeding from east to west in logical increments. This would go a long way in putting in place development criteria that the public was demanding in regards to the proposed Steamboat 700 development.

The next public discussion of the UGB will be before the Board of County Commissioners at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 10.

Sincerely,

Ben Beall

Former Routt County commissioner

Comments

Scott Wedel 9 months ago

Ben,

I've been at meetings where this has been discussed. The context of those discussions is not that there should be any wholesale expansion of the UGB, but that the current wording makes it impossible to adjust the UGB, That there are no great reasons for the UGB lines in some places and yet the standard for changing the UGB is so high that they cannot make changes that could be viewed as corrections of the UGB.

It is also discussed that expanding the UGB is not the same as allowing annexation. That annexation still has to be approved by SB. It is my understanding that part of the change is to move the showing of public benefits to the annexation process. That adjusting the UGB would not need to show benefit, but of complying with regional plans.

Thus, this discussion has not been about making wholesale changes or allowing major growth in any direction.

So are you concerned that the steps to allow small changes might unintentionally be used to allow wholesale expansion of the UGB?

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