Wednesday, December 5, 2007

360 Ranch (Steamboat West) Withdraws Application

Steamboat Springs — Fearing denial from the Routt County Board of Commissioners, the developers of a controversial rural subdivision west of Steamboat Springs withdrew their application from consideration Tuesday.

The project, known as 360 Ranch, narrowly escaped the Routt County Planning Commission last month with a 5-4 vote recommending approval. That vote followed a failed motion to deny the project. In Tuesday’s public hearing, Brian Bavosi of Vertical Arts announced the withdrawal of the application but proceeded with a PowerPoint presentation of plans for the land, which Virginian Hank Wilton purchased in February for $6.74 million.

Bavosi said he felt he followed the direction of county staff — Routt County Planning Director Chad Phillips recommended the project for approval — and expressed frustration that the project is being met with mixed feelings. Bavosi said he withdrew the application due to county regulations that would have prevented the development, if denied, from returning for reconsideration within the next year.

Developers proposed an 11-lot “land preservation subdivision,” or LPS, on 320 acres. The developers are entitled to nine lots under state law. Using LPS regulations, they could be awarded two bonus lots in exchange for clustering the home sites on one portion of the property, thus preserving traditional agricultural activities on dedicated open space.
Plans also included two “remainder parcels” just west of Steamboat Springs city limits and within the future urban growth boundary described in the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan. Most of the contention regarding the 360 Ranch proposal concerned these remainder parcels, and developers’ request for an exception that would allow denser housing on the parcels if they are someday annexed into the city.

A 40-year question
Phillips said Tuesday that Planning Commissioners who voted against the project felt the developers were “double dipping” by seeking the LPS bonus lots while at the same time anticipating future development on the remainder parcels.
County Attorney John Merrill said the application was not consistent with county regulations, which say remainder parcels can only be considered for development after 40 years. Merrill said that when county regulations clash with provisions in a master plan document — such as the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan — the regulations should prevail.
Bavosi thought his plan would be allowed under language in the area plan that discusses “hold zones” that can be considered for future dense development, but acknowledged Tuesday that others might disagree.
“This might be trying to fit a round peg in a square hole,” Bavosi said. “Right now, from what we’re hearing, everyone might not be comfortable with this. … Hopefully I can get some direction soon.”

County Commissioner Nan­cy Stahoviak said commissioners had no idea the application would be withdrawn. She took issue with Bavosi’s implication that the application would be denied and said all three commissioners came to the hearing with an open mind.
“We did not tell our planning staff we were not going to approve the project,” Stahoviak said.
Stahoviak agreed with Merrill’s assessment that the provisions in the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan do not exempt projects from county regulations, specifically the 40-year wait before additional residential density can be considered.
Stahoviak said the developers now have an opportunity to make a fresh start.
“The bottom line is, moving forward, they have the opportunity to come back with something of a conceptual nature for input,” Stahoviak said.