Snowmass passes moratorium
Officials say emergency ordinances a common tool for growth
October 20, 2007
Steamboat Springs — After Snowmass Village officials this week passed an emergency moratorium on land-use applications, Steamboat Springs city officials say the move shows how commonly moratoriums are used when communities are confronted with growth.
The Aspen Times reported Tuesday that the Snowmass Village Town Council unanimously passed an emergency ordinance Monday night banning the acceptance of land use applications in two neighborhoods for six months. A recent community survey revealed Snowmass citizens are concerned by a wave of recent construction, the Times reported.
In September, the Steamboat Springs City Council enacted a moratorium banning the demolition of structures deemed historic, while it assigns a citizen committee to re-evaluate the city’s current historic preservation ordinance. The moratorium followed a broader-reaching emergency moratorium that halted even minor renovations to older homes throughout the city for weeks.
The emergency moratorium has been a recent topic of local debate as candidates compete for election to Steamboat’s City Council.
“They’re actually very common in the resort areas that are experiencing growth,” Steam-
boat Councilman Ken Brenner said of moratoriums. “There are definitely a lot of similar things going on in other towns.”
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James van Hemert, president-elect of the Colorado chapter of the American Planning Association and executive director of the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute at the University of Denver, agreed with Brenner and said moratoriums are common nationwide. But while common, van Hemert said moratoriums should be used carefully and with solid reasoning.
“It shouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction if it’s going to be legally defensible,” he said.
Van Hemert said moratoriums are most legitimately used when growth or another planning issue, such as historic preservation, overwhelms a community.
City Attorney Tony Lettunich said moratoriums are understandably controversial, but “it happens everywhere.” The tool also is often necessary, Lettunich said, due to state laws that bind governments to process any accepted application under the laws in place when the application was accepted. Without a moratorium, people could take advantage of old laws while new ones are being crafted.
Planning Director Tom Leeson agreed.
“When we feel like we’re not prepared, a moratorium is really an effective tool to make sure we have the proper tools in place to deal with it,” Leeson said.
While useful, Leeson said the city only likes to use moratoriums as a last resort. And at the end of the day, Leeson said most people – even developers – will find that a moratorium was for the best. Leeson said that’s exactly what happened when the city enacted a moratorium a couple years ago at the base of Steamboat Ski Area, while the city updated its codes and master plan for the area.
“The hope is hopefully it will benefit everybody,” Leeson said.
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