A new steering committee is helping the city of Steamboat Springs plan for a new transfer of development rights program that could help preserve the views of Howelsen Hill and the Yampa River from Yampa Street.

Photo by Scott Franz

A new steering committee is helping the city of Steamboat Springs plan for a new transfer of development rights program that could help preserve the views of Howelsen Hill and the Yampa River from Yampa Street.

New committee helping city of Steamboat create transfer of development rights program for Yampa Street

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— 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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Comments

John St Pierre 9 months ago

LOL... cant sell your property let the city cover your loss.... If the city wants the property do itthru imminent domain and let the court decide its value in a Transparent fashion......

all this of course in light of what happen to the last committee the town had about to spend the money in the 1st place.....

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John St Pierre 9 months ago

curious.... where was the advertisement looking for committee members???? ummm seems a little cherry picking there!!!!

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John Fielding 9 months ago

When I proposed acquisition of development rights for significant historic properties, I was branded a heretic on the Historic Preservation Commission. The way this traditionally is done is by restrictive zoning and oppressive regulations. Why are these guys getting the kid gloves instead of the iron fist? I don't know what has changed but it bodes well.

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Steve Lewis 9 months ago

Routt County recently explored a similar venture with the PDR, Purchase of Development Rights. From my reading of the County effort, the idea of "sending density" away from sensitive areas was a good concept and got the whole thing started, but the other end of the deal, "receiving density", was where the problems arose. "Receiving" end problems were large enough that the County PDR effort was abandoned. One of those County planners would be a smart addition to this City team. Perhaps Rebecca Bessy, who previously worked at the County, is that person.

I would like to see TDR succeed. If indeed, where the density rights would be transferred to is the difficult part, that question should answered early rather than last. A better committee makeup would include interested "receivers", such as Wildhorse Meadows, base area owners, or whatever neighborhood City staff feels will have a demand for density.

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Scott Wedel 9 months ago

The whole trouble with the idea of having an area receive more development is that, by definition, it means that an area zoned for a particular density can acceptably be developed at a higher density.

Which creates the dilemma, if the receiving area can acceptably be developed at a higher density then why it is zoned at a lower density? It suggests that the lower density zoning is intentionally not the appropriate zoning in order to artificially create a market for development rights.

And in a city that wishes to promote infill then no part of the city should be intentionally zoned at a lower than desired density.

Maybe annexations applications could be required to have TDRs or pay large fees, but then you are piling on more costs to any annexations and might keep that shut down.

Basic concept of government trying get something of value without spending any money is always problematic and is hard to do without creating even worse side effects.

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Steve Lewis 9 months ago

This is a bit confusing. Also in the news is an article about easier UGB expansions to facilitate easier annexations. I do not understand our re-tooling for easier annexations at the same time new TDR policies will rely on a healthy market for infill density. Here again, it will be good to hear from the developers interested in buying infill density rights.

Begs the question; Did our recent Area Plan Update create clear direction for infill or annexation?

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Eric Schneider 9 months ago

Here's a great primer for anyone who wants to read more about what a TDR program is all about:

What is a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Program?

Essentially it's a market driven approach to moving development away from an area you'd like protected (e.g. downtown riverfront) to another area where development is more acceptable. Simply increasing the density zoning in the receiving area would allow for increased density but would not do anything to decrease density in the sending zone.

Basic concept of government trying get something of value without spending any money is always problematic and is hard to do without creating even worse side effects.

I don't know what you're referring to when you say the government is trying to get something of value without spending any money. The TDR transactions would be between property owners. The "value" to government (and the entire community) is the protection of sensitive areas from increasingly dense development.

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Steve Lewis 9 months ago

"but would not do anything to decrease density in the sending zone."

Maybe that is a typo Eric. I thought decreasing allowed density in the sending zone was the whole point.

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Eric Schneider 9 months ago

Steve, I was referring to the idea of simply increasing allowable density in the receiving zone. That would only serve to increase density in one area while doing nothing to decrease it in another.

But yes, through a TDR program you would decrease density in the sending zone while at the same time increasing it in the receiving zone. It's really a win-win when implemented properly!

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jerry carlton 9 months ago

There is no limit to what government wants to control. Before it is finished, there will be taxpayers dollars involved.

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Scott Wedel 9 months ago

"at the same time increasing it in the receiving zone"

And therein lies the tricky part. How do you create a receiving zone that is zoned for lower density than desired and so uses TDRs to achieve the desired density?

There is also the very possible lose lose situation of the developer in the receiving zone unable to get TDRs at an acceptable price and so builds at a lower density. And then the sending zone doesn't have a place to send their TDRs so they don't transfer and they build bigger than desired.

As I said before, it is very tricky to try to get something for nothing without causing adverse unintended consequences.

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Eric Schneider 8 months, 4 weeks ago

Scott, I agree it can be tricky but it can and will work if done properly. The pricing is set on the free market, so that shouldn't be an issue. In the event that an acceptable price cannot be agreed upon (because the ability to development another square foot is worth much more in the selling zone than the receiving zone, for example) the ratio can be tweaked. That means instead of selling at a 1:1 ratio you could say that the ratio is 1.2:1 so that 1.2 square feet can be developed for every square foot purchased.

In any event, I agree that the process can be tricky and must be handled as carefully and as transparently as possible.

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Scott Wedel 8 months, 4 weeks ago

Eric,

I cannot imagine how a TDR market could be expected to work in this case. I don't see how they can create enough of a sending or receiving market in SB so that it is truly worthwhile for either party.

The fundamental trouble is how to create a receiving area. How could an area to be currently correctly zoned and yer allow someone to show up with TDRs to be able to do what is otherwise prohibited?

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John St Pierre 9 months ago

"enhance the pedestrian experience on Yampa Street." ????

What is the poorest worst pedestrian experience in Steamboat???? OAK STREET!!!

Whenever there is Farmers Market or any event / incident that closes Lincoln... You take your life in your hands trying to walk anywhere on or navigate Oak street...... The diversion of all hwy40 traffic onto a basically country road especially in winter can be a very harrowing experience especially when you have Large Tractor trailers utilizing the same surface with pedestrians.

Pedestrian experience on Yampa St??? Please !!!! If the city is concerned about safety and pedestrians address Oak street 1st !!!!

Hopefully this public buyout of private of private property that cannot be sold on the upcoming ballot issue will be defeated.

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Mark Ruckman 9 months ago

" You take your life in your hands trying to walk anywhere on or navigate Oak street"

Are you being a bit over dramatic?

I have walked around the largest cities in the world and the only place was my safety an issue was Mexico City. Steamboat & Oak Street are rather tame even during very busy weekends such as Winter Carnival. Yes it might take me a minute or two longer to navigate.

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