Steamboat, Routt County planning commissions discuss urban growth boundary

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— The city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County planning commissions met Thursday night to continue discussions about how changes are made to the urban growth boundary.

While the bodies are moving forward with separate processes for minor and major amendments to the boundary, certain topics and points of contention continue to surface in successive meetings.

The commissions started Thursday’s meeting by working their way through the criteria for both processes. The minor process is designed to be less restrictive than the current amendment policy, and the major process is tied to larger, comprehensive reviews of the boundary and the Community Area Plan.

The urban growth boundary is included in the Community Area Plan, which was formed by an intergovernmental agreement between the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County. Changes to the boundary, of any significance, count as amendments to the area plan and must go through both planning commissions, the Steamboat Springs City Council and the Routt County Board of Commissioners.

During Thursday’s meeting, members of the city planning commission also brought up concepts from the earliest stages of their discussions on the boundary: a simplified version of the original UGB amendment process that drops three out of five criteria and relies on policy agreement with the Community Area Plan and logical changes to the boundary.

City planning commission member Charlie MacArthur suggested presenting two options to City Council: the minor and major processes and the single, simplified process.

Some members of the county planning commission were uncomfortable with dropping the three criteria in a unified process, and others questioned whether the major amendment process as drafted is just as unachievable as the plan is currently written.

No changes to the urban growth boundary have been approved under the current amendment process outside of an area plan update.

Some commissioners took issue with the lack of an acreage limit to define minor amendments. Language in other criteria also was criticized as being too vague.

Members of the planning commissions also highlighted that the area plan states that the boundary should be reviewed every five years, and it hasn’t been. The latest area plan review has been underway for two years and comes eight years after the previous review.

“In the beginning, the community enthusiasm was high,” city planning commission member Kathi Meyer said about the Community Area Plan update process.

But over time, she said, the number of community members actively participating in the process dropped until it was the same people at every meeting.

“You could have two years or more for an update of a plan to wait for a UGB investigation and nothing is going to come of it,” she said about the potential timetable for major amendments.

Meyer said that instead of having a set acreage limit for minor amendments, which would kick bigger parcels to the major process, she would rather see the public bodies weigh the changes based on their impacts rather than size.

“I think that’s part of our job,” she said. “We’re just going to have to wade through what those impacts are.”

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

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