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City hires planning director

Denver urban designer, architect starts Sept. 7 in Steamboat Springs

Tyler Gibbs

— A city planner involved with some of Denver's largest projects in recent years will join Steamboat's staff in the fall.

Steamboat Springs City Manager Jon Roberts said Tuesday that Denver plan im­­ple­­mentation manager Tyler Gibbs is Steamboat's next director of planning and community development. Gibbs will start Sept. 7.

He beat out four other finalists for the job last held by Tom Leeson, who left the position April 1 to pursue graduate studies at the University of Maryland. Senior planner Jonathan Spen­ce will continue as the department's interim director until Gibbs takes the helm.

Gibbs has worked in a planning capacity for the city and county of Denver for about 18 years. During that time, according to a news release, he developed the first urban design standards for downtown Denver, was chairman of design review committees for Invesco Field at Mile High and the Colorado Convention Center and facilitated planning and zoning projects in neighborhoods including Cherry Creek and Stapleton.

"Steamboat Springs has struck gold," Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper said in a written statement through his communications office. "Tyler Gibbs is a talented architect and planning manager who cares deeply about balancing excellent design with a respect for history, place and community. He has given a great deal to our city, and he will be missed."

Gibbs' boss in Denver also spoke well of him.

"We are very proud of Tyler, and grateful for his many contributions to making Denver the great city that it is today," said Peter Park, manager of Denver's Community Planning and Development Department. "His efforts have shaped critical projects including Denver Union Station, the redevelopment of the former Stapleton International Airport, Invesco Field at Mile High and the preparation for transit-oriented development. We recognize the wonderful opportunity Tyler has in Steamboat Springs and know that he will be a tremendous asset to his new community."

Gibbs was juggling several meetings Tuesday and could only be reached via e-mail. Roberts said Gibbs' impressive background and "very professional" demeanor led to the hire, as did a unanimous recommendation from Steamboat's planning staff.

"The planning department was very enthusiastic about this particular candidate and very pleased that he became the selection," Spence said about his next boss.

Gibbs is involved in Denver's first comprehensive update of its zoning code since 1956. That experience could greatly benefit his work in Steamboat, where city planners have cited zoning changes as one method to accommodate growth within city limits. Also beneficial could be Gibbs' work in planning and design of the Stapleton neighborhood, which arose from urban redevelopment of the former Stapleton International Airport.

Steamboat city officials toured Stapleton in summer 2008 to see an example of new urbanism designs that could shape future Steamboat annexations.

The city's next growth steps are unclear. Voters strongly rejected the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation last month. Last week, attorney Jill Brabec told Steamboat Springs City Council that developers of the proposed 360 Village annexation west of city limits are "not certain" of their plans in the wake of that vote. City Council voted to extend 360 Village's deadline for an annexation petition to Oct. 1.

Roberts said annexation experience was about 20 percent of the considerations in Gibbs' hire. The interview committee included Roberts, Steamboat Springs Planning Commission member Jason Lacy, Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord, former City Council President Loui Antonucci, City Council member Walter Magill, city human resources manager John Thrasher and Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Ron Lindroth.

Thrasher could not be reached Tuesday to provide Gibbs' salary or the names of the other finalists.

Spence said the city's Plan­ning and Community Devel­opment Department is working on changes to the community development code and other small projects but that no large developments are on the horizon.

"Nothing of any significance right now," Spence said Tuesday, before referring to the Colorado Department of Transportation's massive downtown repaving project. "I haven't seen a whole lot of activity except for what's going on right outside my front door here."

Spence said he thinks Gibbs will be able to handle the transition from urban Denver to rural Steamboat Springs.

"He doesn't seem like a big-city guy — he really seems down to earth and recognizes what we hold as values in this community," Spence said.

Gibbs and his family frequently vacation in Steamboat. His wife's parents live here.

Roberts said Gibbs can't start his new job until Sept. 7 because of his current workload.

"He has projects and commitments that he is finishing up — he had been very upfront with that in the selection process," Roberts said. "He'll go ahead and get involved to the extent that he can until we get him up here full time."