Steamboat’s urban boundary questioned
City, county officials take 1st steps toward new growth policies
April 21, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Before city and county officials decide how the community should grow, Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said Tuesday night, a more pressing question could be whether Steamboat residents want the city to grow at all.
"There were a lot of comments made after the Steamboat 700 vote by your citizens that (said) … 'We've given clear direction to our city that we don't want to grow,'" Stahoviak said to Steamboat Springs City Council members during a meeting to discuss countywide growth issues.
That sentiment, arguably indicated by city voters' strong rejection of the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation last month, ultimately could mean a change is needed to the urban growth boundary that designates future growth areas outside current city limits, Stahoviak suggested.
"We all need to think seriously about whether or not we need to look at the urban growth boundary," Stahoviak said.
Enter transfer of development rights programs which were discussed by city and county officials in a crowded Centennial Hall on Tuesday.
A potential city-county TDR program could one day allow some rural landowners to preserve their land from development in exchange for development rights on "receiving areas" within city limits. In those receiving areas, landowners would be able to build in excess of city development codes — in other words, to build higher or with more density than code allows — as an incentive for preserving their rural land and keeping growth close to the county's urban core of Steamboat Springs.
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County commissioners will address a separate proposed TDR program — this one solely for the county — in a public meeting April 27. That version of the program would allow development on 5-acre parcels in specified unincorporated county areas. Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush called the proposal "a sea change" from the 35-acre development now allowed in the county.
Although Mitsch Bush advised a cautious, deliberate approach to TDR regulations, Commissioner Doug Monger said now is the time to spur the horse.
"We talk about sprawl — every day we waste an opportunity to move forward on this; we have another 35-acre subdivision moving in," Monger said. "I'm still very in favor of moving forward and having 5 acres (for development parcels)."
Stahoviak said the commissioners' differing views on a TDR program throws potential results of the April 27 meeting up in the air.
But if the county moves forward with its TDR program, about 250 5-acre lots could be developed in the Slate Creek area north and west of the land still owned by Steamboat 700 LLC, just west of city limits. Those lots would be intended as a transition from urban development to truly rural areas.
But if Steamboat 700 developers choose to place 35-acre lots on that land, the result could be what City Council President Cari Hermacinski called "a moat" around the city, with the more dense 5-acre parcels outside of the less dense 35-acre parcels.
Councilman Jim Engelken also acknowledged that conundrum.
"If we have receiving zones that are around Steamboat 700 … (and) the developers of Steamboat 700 have suggested they may go to 1 (home) per 35 (acres) — that sort of messes with the whole plan," Engelken said. "We sort of need to know what's going to happen with that parcel of land before we get too far down the road."
That situation could suggest changing the urban growth boundary, Stahoviak said.
City Council members agreed to place a TDR discussion on a future agenda.
Alternative growth policies have come into the spotlight after the city's denial of Steamboat 700.
"Nobody in their right mind is going to propose an annexation to the city anytime in the near future, I'll tell you that," Stahoviak said.