Our View: County presents interesting growth plan
March 3, 2010
Steamboat Springs — The Routt County Board of Commissioners shifted direction last week regarding 5-acre subdivisions in the county, expressing more openness toward the possibility of developers building those rural subdivisions outside the city of Steamboat Springs' urban growth boundary.
The commissioners moved ahead with a plan that would create the potential — no development was approved — for 300 or more 5-acre home sites on the northern and western edge of the boundary.
The commissioners made no decision during a work session Feb. 23, instead telling Planning Director Chad Phillips that they wanted to see 1,150 acres added to a transfer of development rights receiving area map. The map originally contained 300 acres.
The new transfer of development rights regulations the county is developing are intended to achieve several public benefits. They would allow the owner of rural land parcels with scenic, agricultural or wildlife values to sell development rights off their land and transfer them to a developer who owns land closer to the county's population areas.
This is an interesting and important idea that deserves Routt County residents' attention.
What the commissioners hope to do, in essence, is encourage developers to build subdivisions with 5-acre lots closer to population centers rather than spread out in the county. That would accomplish several things:
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It would conserve rural land in perpetuity by transferring development rights off of it.
It would save the county money by putting people who need county services closer to them. Fewer people would be building in the far outer reaches of the county, putting less strain on fire, plowing and emergency services.
It would create a buffer between the denser urban growth boundary area and the rural areas. Development would go from denser within the boundary to the 5-acre parcels and then to rural areas.
The commissioners aren't unanimous on the idea, with Doug Monger and Nancy Stahoviak supporting it but Diane Mitsch Bush expressing reluctance to encourage what she views as sprawl.
The Regional Planning Commission tentatively is scheduled to make a recommendation in April on the new receiving area map.
The transfer of development rights would require a three-way negotiation among two private property owners and the county. The two landowners would be seeking common ground on a sale of development rights away from one parcel to another. The commissioners would be looking to ensure sufficient public benefit in return for the creation of new development lots just outside Steamboat.
In our judgment, it's premature to issue a final verdict on the receiving map or the transfer of development rights policy. We do think it's important to note that new subdivisions would have to go through the county's regular approval process. This change wouldn't be a blanket approval for development.
The commissioners are taking an active role in planning for possible growth in the county. We encourage residents to be a part of the process and discussion.