Steamboat mulls development review changes
January 25, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Proposed changes to the city's development review process that would allow some commercial and multifamily projects that meet code to be approved administratively will be up for public discussion at a Steamboat Springs Planning Commission meeting Thursday.
Planning Director Tyler Gibbs said the changes would streamline the process for developers and the city by allowing those projects that aren't seeking variances from the Community Development Code to be approved without Planning Commission and City Council review. He also said the changes would allow community members to provide input during a public hearing at the beginning of the development review process instead of at the end.
Ultimately, Gibbs said the revised process would let developers know whether their project is acceptable before making significant financial investments.
"Right now an awful lot of the cost of proposing the development is just getting through the process," Gibbs said. "I think as a community we'd much rather see that investment go into quality construction and good design and not just to get through an unnecessarily difficult process."
The Planning Commission and City Council still would have the opportunity to "call up" for review projects that were set to be approved administratively but that might not be conforming to all codes. Development applications that included variances from the development code would be presented during a public hearing and then would be up for consideration by the Planning Commission and the City Council.
Gibbs also said community members still would be notified about projects that might affect them, regardless of whether the projects conformed with existing code.
Planning Commission member Rich Levy said he worries that some criteria of the development code are subjective, such as architectural guidelines and how a design fits into the rest of a neighborhood. He said a second review of those subject criteria is important.
"In theory I like the direction," Levy said about streamlining the development review process. "There have been plenty of applications that have come before Planning Commission (in the past) that have been redundant. But there have been plenty that needed Planning Commission oversight. And I'm concerned we'll lose that."
Gibbs said subjective criteria always have been a challenge. He said any project not consistent with the city's development code would be considered by the Planning Commission and City Council.
The code is based on the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan, Gibbs said. He said the community should be able to rely on a predictable development code and a reliable process.
Levy encouraged the public to attend tonight's meeting and to share their thoughts on the proposed changes to the process.
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com