The Steamboat City Council and the Routt County Board of Commissioners are receptive to changing the way the city's hard urban growth boundary is amended in the future. Past applicants hope the change could make it easier for changes to be made.

File/John F. Russell

The Steamboat City Council and the Routt County Board of Commissioners are receptive to changing the way the city's hard urban growth boundary is amended in the future. Past applicants hope the change could make it easier for changes to be made.

Plan to make urban growth boundary amendment process easier is moving forward

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— Stephanie McNamara easily spent thousands of dollars during her quest to change Steamboat Springs' hard urban growth boundary.

A land manager was hired.

An architect was consulted.

Then it all ended in frustration.

McNamara wanted to subdivide her 4.5-acre parcel of land in Spring Creek Canyon to build a single-family residence with deed restrictions, but she needed the line moved, and her application failed.

Eight years later, she said she feels like she never even had a chance.

"The system was broken at best and a scam at worst," she said Tuesday about the process to expand the area in which urban growth is allowed in Steamboat.

Developers and other landowners like McNamara who have failed to gain any traction in expanding this hard line thanked local government officials Tuesday for moving forward with a plan that could make it easier for the line to be amended.

The Steamboat Springs City Council and the Routt County Board of Commissioners did not advocate for any sweeping changes or even a hard look at moving the line around at this point. But they expressed interest in their planning staff's recommendation to treat major proposed changes to the boundary differently than minor ones.

The recommendation is the result of many meetings in recent months along with community input.

“I'd like to thank the council for trying to make the application process something that is possible rather than impossible,” McNamara said.

McNamara said her intention of subdividing her lot would have helped to preserve the canyon's character.

Currently, the city and the county don't have a way to consider a proposed change to McNamara's 4.5-acre parcel any differently than they would the 185-acre Steamboat 700 parcel, which was rejected for annexation in 2010.

Applicants like McNamara have found it nearly impossible to get a minor amendment to the boundary in part because they also have to meet criteria of annexation.

Among other things, all applicants currently have to prove their amendment to the growth boundary has public benefit and is suitable for the land.

Since 2004, all 11 applications to expand the urban growth boundary have been denied.

City Planner Rebecca Bessey said Tuesday that differentiating between major and minor amendments to the boundary could help “ensure we are looking at these based on the scale of their potential impacts and putting them through a level of review that's appropriate based on those impacts.”

Council members and commissioners also advocated for more specificity in the process so applicants know what to expect when they propose amendments.

They found the criteria of “public benefit,” for example, to be vague.

The potential changes to how the boundary can be amended drew a number of people to Centennial Hall on Tuesday night.

Developer Tom Fox told the council that the stringent UGB boundary helps contribute to an image that Steamboat is “closed.”

He asked the council and the commissioners to create a more expedient process for amending the boundary.

Amid the calls to change how the boundary is amended, there also have been community members and past county commissioners who have stressed the line has served an important purpose and managed growth.

The proposed changes to the amendment process now will go back to the city and county planning staff for further review.

The City Council and commissioners said they wanted something to consider adopting before their next joint meeting in the summer.

“Many times we keep talking this around and around and around,” Commissioner Steve Ivancie said. “I think we've made a lot of progress narrowing this down. We finally have something to talk about."

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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