Our View: Planning for continued growth in Steamboat


The Steamboat Springs’ urban growth boundary was the subject of discussion at Tuesday’s Routt County Board of Commissioners meeting. The commission was scheduled to take a closer look at criteria required for expanding Steamboat’s city limits.

At issue

The Routt County Board of Commissioners is reviewing the criteria for expanding the urban growth boundary.

Our view

It may be time for slight adjustments to the UGB to allow for reasonable growth.

Steamboat Today editorial board — June to December 2013

  • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • David Baldinger Jr., community representative
  • Lisa Brown, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

Since the UGB’s inception, adherence to the plan has provided the city and county with a growth tool that has benefited Steamboat. The plan, which was established as part of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan, has served to deter urban sprawl and has helped Steamboat retain its rural charm while ensuring the bulk of commercial and residential growth occurs within the city. It also works to reinforce the most efficient use of infrastructure for city residents.

And while the UGB has been beneficial, the Steamboat Pilot & Today thinks the plan should not be treated as a “sacred cow” that is never subject to review or revision. The proposal to discuss possible adjustments to the plan is healthy and an important step in planning for the city’s continued growth.

Since the plan was created, technology has advanced and there now are opportunities to use GIS technology to clean up the city’s boundaries. Back in 1996 when the UGB was first adopted, boundary lines were based on topography and existing maps, and as a result, there are several instances where half of someone’s property is in the UGB and half lies outside it.

It makes sense in these situations to make the process of annexing small parcels of land that lie just outside the current UGB easier. Under the current plan, these annexation requests are denied because of the UGB’s overly restrictive criteria.

The Pilot & Today is not proposing that city and county officials make sweeping changes to the UGB to bring in hundreds of acres of land for massive developments. Instead, we would encourage a review of the plan to allow for the logical annexation of smaller properties to clean up city property lines, especially where property and housing developments straddle the UGB boundary.

Right now under the UGB’s strict criteria, it is virtually impossible for anyone to annex into the city. As the recession lifts and Steamboat’s housing market rebounds, people who work here need places to live and criteria that only supports development within the existing UGB boundary may not work to provide affordable housing for working families. A refusal to consider revisions to the UGB, in our opinion, is adherence to a no-growth strategy that limits Steamboat’s natural growth.

We thought local resident Al Rosenthal made a good point at a county planning commission meeting this fall where the subject of revising the UGB was discussed. He stated that the city and county “were looking for criteria not to make it easy but to make it possible” to expand the UGB, and we like that position.

It is our position that the city and county need to take another look at the UGB in light of new technology and a changing economy. Again, we are not proposing wholesale changes to the plan, which has worked very well during the past 18 years, but instead we’d like to see the language in the UGB revised to allow for reasonable controlled growth and logical annexation. It’s also wise to plan for growth now rather than wait until some large development plan is on the table. And we would suggest the city and county consider only those changes that would conform to the vision laid out clearly in the Area Community Plan.

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Steve Lewis 4 months, 1 week ago

We lack an Area Plan to guide how Steamboat should grow. Annexations to our West were once an adopted and understood community goal. Then Steamboat 700 was refused. It seemed a rebuttal for the West Area Plan, and seemed to imply we instead wanted the opposite style of growth - infill. Or one could argue that Steamboat 700 failed for other reasons: overwhelming size, huge infrastructure costs, a sour economy, etc…

Does the community want infill or does it prefer annexations? The ongoing attempt to Update our Area Plan tried to (indirectly) answer that question. Perhaps the answer is some of each. Unfortunately the Update saw very low community input and brought little resolution. In my view we still need that answer. How can we set good UGB/anexation policy without it?

The Area Plan Update should have another go and ask the question directly - infill or annexation? We need more context about infill. It can be painful in established zoning patterns. The Area Plan Update is important, and to have community buy-in it deserves attention similar to that we gave to the police station and the lodging tax.


Scott Wedel 4 months, 1 week ago

The changes to annexation policy is being presented as not being a plan to handle growth since the discussed annexations are small. For instance, the criteria requires, or risk opponents appealing to the courts, that there be benefits to county residents for any adjustment to the boundary lines. So they feel compelled to turn down every request even if there is nothing in any of the area or community plans to explain why the boundary line makes more sense at the current location vs the proposed expansion.

Thus, these changes are not about redoing or undoing the west area plan or any other community plan, but are a technical fix to allow small changes.

It'd characterize the county commissioners comments to want changes so that they can approve changes that conform to the various area plans. And then let SB decide if SB wishes to annex what is now within the urban growth boundary.

SB planning has held meetings on what is the public's wishes on infill vs annexations or a mixture. My comment to Tyler Gibbs was this is a whole lot of theory and everything changes when a specific proposal is submitted. His response was that zoning can tell developers what is likely to be approved and thus rezoning a bunch of the vacant commercial to high density urban residential can affect what developers will propose.


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