On Thursday last week, the Routt County and Steamboat Springs planning commissions met to discuss new rules for changing the Urban Growth Boundary of Steamboat Springs. The UGB first was proposed and adopted by both the county and city and was included in the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan of 2004.
The SSACP with its UGB has as its vision a vibrant economy with a pedestrian-oriented and compact urban community while protecting the natural environment; and where rural agricultural Routt County begins at the UGB. The UGB was set up to control unwanted urban or rural sprawl.
At the meeting last week, most of the members of the planning commissions showed their preferences through straw votes. If these preferences stand, the concept of the UGB will be changed forever. It was unbelievable to witness member after member unwilling to consider the community’s previously developed vision. Their objective only was to make it easier to change the UGB.
A thoughtful draft was presented by the planning staffs and provided a two-track change process:
A Major Change Process — where the community would have input through updates/revisions to the SSACP; and
an updated Minor Change Process. The commissions examined these options, and the Minor Change Process was gutted.
Many people have worked throughout the years to establish a sustainable, friendly community that has become a model in Colorado. What is happening? Is it because, perhaps, that there were only a couple planning commission members who had even participated in creating the vision of the SSACP? Or is it because of, as one member complained, a lack of public participation?
Below are four logical criteria for minor changes to the UGB, which will be lost if the preferences of the planning commissioners end up being accepted. They were not willing to accept the following:
An acreage requirement or even use of the word “small” in order to give clarity for the decision-makers who will be approving the minor changes.
Municipal water and sewer providers’ maps and plans as criteria for extension of services and thus changes to the UGB.
The property proposed for inclusion within the UGB had to be appropriate for urban levels of density or growth.
A property proposed to be included within the UGB should not have a significant negative impact on surrounding agricultural lands, critical wildlife habitat, existing and planned open spaces, parks and trail systems, rivers, streams and wetlands.
At this meeting there were only two members of the public who even made comments, and their average age was 72 1/2. The UGB has helped our community establish a quality of life that attracts residents and tourists. We are the envy of many other towns. We have a community to protect!
The UGB is not, as some planning commission members stated, “a concept to restrict growth.” It was created to manage growth.
Where are the residents of Steamboat? Where are the GenXers and the millennials? If you like living in Steamboat Springs and being able to walk to a park, kayak the Yampa and ride your bikes on the mountain or Emerald then you need to start paying attention! This is your community!
There is nothing more important than participating in your community. There is nothing more important than the land use patterns in your community. Get involved, or some day you may be very disappointed that those with special interests in development set your future and the future of your children.
Former Routt County commissioner