Routt County to discuss growth | SteamboatToday.com

Routt County to discuss growth

Transfer of development rights proposal raises questions about sprawl, services

Mike Lawrence

— Questions about preserving the county's rural character and how to plan for future development will be on the table as county officials address a much-debated, growth-related proposal today and Tuesday.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to discuss a transfer of development rights program in public meetings at 1:30 p.m. today and 2 p.m. Tuesday. Both meetings are in the board's hearing room on the third floor of the Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat Springs. The proposed regulations would allow five-acre development in specified, unincorporated county areas through an exchange program in which some rural landowners could transfer their land's development rights to designated sites closer to, or within, urban areas where greater density is allowed.

Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said today's meeting is largely procedural to set parameters and plans for Tuesday's two-hour discussion that could, should commissioners so choose, result in final adoption of the regulations.

But adoption this week would require a lot of consensus-building.

In a joint meeting with the Steamboat Springs City Council last week, the three commissioners expressed widely differing views on the benefits and shortcomings of the current TDR proposal and related growth issues.

TDR regulations designate rural "sending areas" from which development rights would be transferred to "receiving areas" closer to urban growth.

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Routt County Planning Di­­rector Chad Phillips said the proposal includes a 1,600-acre receiving area near Slate Creek, north and west of the land owned by Steamboat 700 LLC just west of Steamboat city limits.

Allowing for roads, infrastructure and other needs, Phillips said, the site could handle about 250 five-acre parcels just outside the city and county's urban growth boundary. Mitsch Bush said a proposed sending area for Slate Creek development is Wolf Mountain Ranch, north of Hayden near the California Park area.

Mitsch Bush said last week that she had "severe qualms" about the TDR proposal and prefers options that emphasize infill within Steamboat city limits, with ready access to municipal services.

"I think TDR has the potential to be a great tool," she said Sunday. "This version, in my opinion, needs a whole lot more work."

Commissioner Doug Mong­er, however, expressed strong support for the program last week, saying it's a needed alternative to the 35-acre parcels the county allows on unincorporated land.

Commissioner Nancy Sta­hoviak said the TDR proposal raises questions about several related issues, including whether the urban growth boundary should be adjusted and the city's plans for future growth.

"A lot of things have been pointed out to us that we do need to go back to the drawing board and reconsider," she said last week. "I think we've got a lot to think about as to whether or not we want to move forward."

Phillips said developers of five-acre parcels would have to meet all the criteria of the county's planning and approval process and could be subject to impact fees or other considerations.

"The foundation of the Routt County master plan is to preserve the rural, Western character of Routt County," Phillips said. Slate Creek "wouldn't be a checkerboard of five-acre lots."

Last week's joint meeting drew significant public comment about the TDR proposal.

Some residents spoke in favor of the idea, while others raised questions about potential impacts to agriculture and creation of urban sprawl.

Alternative growth policies have come into the spotlight after city voters' denial last month of the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation.

"I look forward to a fruitful discussion," Mitsch Bush said. "We'll discuss the issues and see where we get."

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

If you go

What: Public meeting of the Routt County Board of Commissioners to discuss and possibly adopt proposed transfer of development rights program

When: 2 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Commissioners Hearing Room, on the third floor of the Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat Springs

Contact: Call county offices at 970-879-0108 for more information.

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