Water and transportation remain major concerns for West Steamboat

In this graphic from the Routt County Planning Department, the red outline denotes the West Steamboat planning area, where the county is seeking community input. The green plots are privately owned but could be part of future growth.
Routt County/Courtesy Image

Residents joined planners and consultants at West Steamboat’s virtual open house last week — part of Routt County’s master plan update process — to discuss their interests and concerns ranging from l supply to a new grocery store.

Routt County Planning Director Kristy Winser explained during the Feb. 2 Zoom meeting that topics for discussion would cover growth, services, land use, mobility and short-term rentals. .

Currently, county staff are working to update the West Steamboat Springs area plan which was completed in June 2006 and includes 540 acres in addition to Brown Ranch’s 536-acre parcel.

With up to 35 people on the call, including staff and consultants, organizers conducted Zoom polls and showed maps incorporating West Steamboat’s urban growth and planning boundaries, as well as some possible areas of growth. future.

Winser said the county held specific input meetings for the Stagecoach and West Steamboat areas because they were previously listed as capable of handling future growth because the surrounding infrastructure can support higher density.

“Water issues have been a top concern for all county residents,” Winser said of key issues as the community grows.

Meeting organizers said existing plans have served the county well, but need to be updated to address current issues and changing demographics. The master plan was last updated in 2003, but between 2000 and 2018 the county’s population grew by 30%.

Outreach efforts to update the plan began in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the process. The planning department is guiding the drafting of an updated plan with grant support from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and contract planning consultant Cushing Terrell of Denver.

A clear message from the West Steamboat meeting, based on options provided in Zoom polls, was that 90% of attendees expressed a desire for a new grocery store on the west side of town, which was discussed as an option at the Brown Ranch. Participants suggested a small grocery store of similar scope to Hayden Mercantile or perhaps a second satellite location of one of the existing grocery stores in Steamboat that could expand over time.

Another strong message was continued support for the extension of the Central Yampa River Trail westward to meet recreation and transportation needs.

“We’ve heard such an outpouring of support for extending the Core Trail,” Winser said. “Transportation has been one of the highest priorities for the community as a whole.”

Several participants questioned whether the proposed extension path was the best physical route. The projected route shows the trail extending to Sleepy Bear Mobile Home Park, then heading north through a tunnel under US Highway 40, through Brown Ranch, then to the northeast side of the Silver Spur district.

Residents have asked if the trail extension could stay closer to the highway and the Yampa River, though planners have cited higher costs and geographic concerns for doing so.

Another poll showed 83% of participants support continuing the county’s policy banning short-term rentals, while 17% said such rentals could be added in designated areas with stronger enforcement.

Other participants asked if future growth of the Brown Ranch project could extend directly north of Brown Ranch, as some of this land is within the boundaries of the West Steamboat Plan but is not included in the limits of urban growth.

Additional questions were raised by attendees who advocate for more comprehensive water conservation measures and limiting light pollution in new growth areas in the county.

“The city has strong design criteria for development plans, but the county doesn’t. So design criteria should be taken into account during this master plan update process,” Winser explained Monday.

The county conducted a community survey last fall of 925 Routt County residents.

Of these, 70% resided in Steamboat Springs, 14% in South Routt, 8% in West Routt, and 7% in North Routt.

The results are posted on the information site of the master plan, NavigateYourRoutt.com, which also includes an online form for continuous input. Recordings of the virtual Stagecoach and West Steamboat meetings are also posted online.

Key takeaways from community engagement efforts so far, as shown on NavigateYourRoutt.com, include residents’ concerns about open land preservation and water protection, a sense of community, and opportunities, such as jobs, entertainment, and recreation. The strongest concerns relate to overuse of recreation areas, traffic, housing, sprawl, water and resources.

Winser said the updated master plan is expected to be released in draft form this spring, with an opportunity for additional public comment. The plan should be completed this summer.

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