City of Steamboat Springs Planning Department proposes public notice changes

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Print notices to be continued

Community plan land use map amendment

Community Development Code text amendment

Official zoning map amendment

Annexations

PUD district

Traditional neighborhood development regulating plans

Print notices to be eliminated

Development plan

Final development plan

Administrative final development plan

Minor adjustment

Variance — single family for duplex

Variance — development plan or preliminary plat

Waterbody setback variance

Change of use

Minor exterior modification

PUD — minor amendment

Vacation home rental permit

Telecommunication facility

Preliminary plat

Final plat*

*Public notice still required for certain projects listed in Community Development Code Section 26-67 (c) (1)

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the changes to the public notice process were in response to the plan to place a public safety building in Rita Valentine Park. The project was started before that plan in response to development projects such as Skyview Apartments.

Responding to complaints from residents that they weren’t notified properly about pending projects, such as Skyview Apartments, the city of Steamboat Springs Planning Department is considering updates to the public notice process used to alert residents to when there’s a project proposed in their neighborhood.

A draft of the potential changes will be covered during a work session at the Planning Commission’s 5 p.m. Thursday meeting at Centennial Hall.

After surveying other Colorado communities about their processes, the city is proposing a draft plan that keeps the system for mailing letters mainly intact, except that now in some cases, the city would limit the notification of neighboring property owners from a 300-foot perimeter around the proposed project to a 100-foot perimeter. Also, the city now will notify owners who are part of multiunit complexes rather than just notifying the owners’ associations of such developments.

The city will continue to provide the draft of the notification letter, and the project applicant will compile mailing addresses from the city or Routt County assessor websites.

What would change is the Planning Department’s online tools for those seeking information about projects.

A department memo proposes a new Geographic Information System tool specifically for public notices. The search process on the city’s GIS website also would be changed to better identify property owners, especially in multifamily buildings.

The memo signals a shift away from notices printed in the local newspaper to more interactive, online information.

Notices printed in the newspaper would be limited to those required by Colorado Revised Statutes Title 30, Article 23 and Title 31, Article 12, dropping the number of project types that require print notices from 19 to six. Agendas would continue to be published in the newspaper.

In place of print notices, a Web page would be created to highlight projects and provide more information than is available in print.

City of Steamboat Springs planner Toby Stauffer said Monday that two plans for new Web pages are being considered. The first would be an interactive way to highlight projects and provide supplemental information, and the second would include a GIS component to show projects in a given area. A staff memo states that Web advertising might be used to drive traffic to the new Web pages.

Despite potential savings from scaling back print notices, Stauffer said, there would be additional costs associated with the more Web-centric approach.

“We think it might be sort of a wash,” she said about the net financial effect.

The department in recent years has budgeted between $5,000 and $7,000 for advertising, which includes newspaper notices. Agendas especially are larger, more expensive ads that are required regularly. The cost for the printed notices is paid out of the Planning Department’s budget but is included in fees associated with different types of applications.

“This change will make the city’s planning process even less transparent,” said Suzanne Schlicht, publisher of the Steamboat Today.

“We stand for transparency in government," Schlicht said. "Newspaper publication of planning applications alerts citizens to important matters in this community, for everything from vacation home rental permits to new subdivision plats to development plans.”

Any potential changes to print advertisements likely would not go into effect until the new Web pages were operational, Stauffer said. The Planner’s Plat section of the City Page advertisement in the Steamboat Today every other Monday would note the upcoming change, and after a few months, the Planner’s Plat section would note new projects and reference more information being available online.

The Steamboat Springs City Council would need to pass an ordinance to change the notification standards set in the city's code.

"Three cheers to the Planning Department for proposing to build a new website that features more information and is easier to use," Schlicht said. "But it’s the required public notice in the newspaper that will alert citizens to seek information on the city’s website about projects of interest to them.”

Notification changes also would include a lesser level of notification for some projects that would limit the scope to property owners within 100 feet of the project as opposed to 300 feet. The reduced scope would apply to notices for vacation home rental permits.

“We thought there were some projects that seem to have fewer impacts, so we’re trying to provide that option as a benefit to people,” Stauffer said.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

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Comments

John Fielding 1 year, 2 months ago

I believe it is incumbent on a responsible newspaper to investigate, to pry into government affairs and report them to the public. Of course it would be nice if government reported on itself and paid the paper for the privilege, but then we would only hear what they want to tell us. As is painfully obvious currently there are powerful elements of our city government that wish to keep the public in the dark, out of the loop.

The police blotter is an excellent example of reporting on government activity, and it gets a lot of readers. The activities of the enforcement division of the planning department certainly ought to be published right alongside it as those offenses also carry the potential for incarceration. (This is not just so I can get my name in the paper more often). We see the agenda of the county commission published regularly, is that a paid announcement?

Some of this stuff might have less general appeal, but there are a lot of readers who would appreciate having the information, especially those who are active voters, influential in the community, and working to make our fair city a better place to live. the paper might not earn revenue from these articles but they sure would earn respect.

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John Fielding 1 year, 2 months ago

The about comment was submitted as a letter to the editor. It will be interesting to see if it makes the print edition. It not meant to be critical but constructive.

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