Our View: County was right to put off TDR plan
May 2, 2010
On Tuesday, the Routt County Board of Commissioners made the right decision when it voted to table plans for a transfer of development rights program.
The three commissioners decided unanimously to set aside the measure indefinitely. That was a wise move, particularly as questions remain about how best to handle growth in the areas surrounding Steamboat Springs.
Here's what the county was considering: The transfer of development rights regulations would provide a mechanism for conserving rural parcels. That would be accomplished by shifting development potential from parcels proposed for conservation to designated areas close to the city limits through a private transaction between landowners but approved by the county. The draft regulations the commissioners were considering could have created about 250 5-acre home sites in a crescent shape around the north side of Steamboat Springs, wrapping to the western edge of the urban growth boundary.
Some have said the proposal amounts to urban sprawl. At the hearing Tuesday, several residents raised concerns about designating specific receiving areas. North Routt rancher Jay Fetcher suggested that the county would be influencing the value of land within those receiving areas if it adopted the plan, by deciding that certain pieces of land could contain 5-acre parcels while other areas would be limited to 35-acre parcels.
We think there's value in continued discussion of a transfer of development rights plan. As County Planning Director Chad Phillips noted at the commissioners' meeting, a TDR plan was part of the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan and the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan. The city and county collaborated closely on those documents, and TDRs deserve the same level of collaboration and cooperation. Another part of the discussion, currently absent, is transfer of development rights to developable parcels within city limits. This apparently was the intent of TDR programs as implemented in other counties in Colorado — rural to urban rather than rural to rural.
We don't think there's any reason to rush. The Routt County community was given a big timeout when the real estate market cooled, so we have ample time to proceed with forethought and planning.
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And we have to proceed.
On April 11, this Editorial Board wrote about our concerns that the city hasn't delved into the "why" question after city voters emphatically rejected Steamboat 700. Perhaps this transfer of development rights discussion serves as a natural jumping-off point into that crucial conversation. On April 11, we wrote this about a city-county joint meeting to discuss TDR: "Maybe April 20 is the start of an honest look into the reasons our community said 'no' to Steamboat 700. The TDR discussion certainly plays into the same larger issue of growth."
We still think so, and we eagerly await the city and county's next move in the ongoing debate about where and, more important, how this community grows.