Steamboat Springs A new committee of downtown stakeholders, city planners and community members met Thursday to start helping the city of Steamboat Springs develop a new program that could be used to preserve and enhance the pedestrian experience on Yampa Street.
Since 1984, several master plans created for the city's urban corridor have called to protect the views on the downtown roadway and to create better access points to the river.
But current development codes could allow riverfront property owners in the future to construct larger and taller buildings that further would obstruct views of the river and Howelsen Hill and increase the density on the lots.
The city is exploring the use of a new transfer of development rights program as a way to allow those riverside property owners to sell their development rights voluntarily so they can be used elsewhere.
The tool has been discussed in the past year at some downtown revitalization meetings, but Thursday's formation of a steering committee to help the city examine its potential perhaps is the biggest step taken so far in seeing it realized.
“The river still is an asset we haven't fully taken advantage of,” Steamboat Springs Planning Director Tyler Gibbs told the group of 12 stakeholders at the steering committee's first meeting downtown. “One of the mechanisms we have to potentially keep the value of those property rights on the riverfront intact but still allow public and visual access to the river is" transfer of development rights.
City planner Rebecca Bessey told the group that transfer of development rights programs are used to encourage the voluntary shift of development away from an area the community wants to preserve to an area where the community would rather see growth.
In places like Denver and New York City, for example, they have been used to protect historic places from future development.
Gibbs said that while it's clear the riverfront properties on Yampa Street will be where the development rights could be transferred away from, it isn't yet known where they could be transferred to.
“We have some ideas, but it's going back to that supply and demand,” he said.
He said potential receiving zones mentioned so far range from the other side of Yampa Street to the entire downtown area to something beyond that.
Bessey and Gibbs stressed that the program would be voluntary and that the steering committee will play a big role in what the program looks like.
“As much as possible, we want to create a free market between buyer and seller,” Gibbs said. “We don't want the city artificially setting values.”
Gibbs said the next step of the process is a few weeks of data collection.
Property owners and data from the Routt County Assessor's Office will help the group determine what the maximum development potential of all the properties on the street would be.
After that, city staff and the committee will work to identify where the development rights could be transferred to while taking into account such things as zoning and height restrictions and parking capacity.
Gibbs said he hopes the group can submit a potential transfer of development rights program to the Steamboat Springs City Council for approval early next year.
The steering committee is being chaired by Bob Kuusinen, the market president of Vectra Bank.
The group also includes Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett along with Yampa Street property owners and tenants, an attorney and an archaeologist who serves on the city's historic preservation commission.
Their meetings are open to the public, and the next one is tentatively scheduled for December.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10
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