Routt County considers home-size limits, development rights program
By Brandon Gee (Contact) - Reporter Steamboat Pilot & TODAY
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Steamboat Springs — Routt County officials are considering a range of new land-use policies aimed at preserving rural character in the face of development.
At a joint meeting of the Routt County Board of Commissioners and Routt County Planning Commission last week, officials discussed implementing a transfer of development rights program and limiting the size of houses in the county, among other topics. A transfer of development rights, or TDR, program would allow the owner of land designated as a “sending area” to sell his or her development rights to the owner of land designated as a “receiving area.” The program would give county officials a tool to move density to areas they find more desirable while also protecting areas they would rather not see developed. Planning Director Chad Phillips said areas the county might be interested in protecting include viewsheds, critical wildlife habitat and active agriculture operations.
“We don’t want density far-flung out in the county,” County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said. “That’s the purpose of a TDR.” Colorado counties including Pitkin, Mesa, Summit, Adams, Boulder and Gunnison have TDR programs, which Routt County officials have been considering for more than a decade. “It has been on our agenda since 1995,” Mitsch Bush said. “It’s just sort of been something that we haven’t quite got to.”
County Commissioner Doug Monger said the most difficult part of starting a TDR program is identifying the receiving areas where landowners can purchase development rights and construct. A county staff report says receiving areas should serve as a transition between urban and rural areas. The commissioners said they would like to see receiving areas as close to municipalities as possible because of their higher density and need for urban services.
Because such areas already have been identified in the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said the county might test a TDR program in that area before implementing a countywide program. “My hope is we will identify some sending areas for (the west of Steamboat area) and use that as a pilot program,” Stahoviak said.
The county is not as close to adopting policies that would address the growing size of residential units in Routt County. An upward trend in house sizes is raising some eyebrows — Monger said complaints about house sizes are something “we hear … all the time from our residents.”
Phillips said there was disagreement on the subject at last week’s meeting, with some Planning Commission members dead set against any limitation on the size of homes. “It was a mixed conversation,” he said. Officials noted that the county could adopt a policy that doesn’t necessarily forbid houses above a certain size, but does discourage them.
“We realize that there are costs to the taxpayer as we get larger and larger homes,” Mitsch Bush said. “Many communities don’t say, ‘You can’t do it,’ but you have to offset costs to the community. …We’re going to continue exploring these issues to see what the best policies are for Routt County.”
— To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210
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