A satellite image from Google Maps shows the area that is proposed to be annexed into the city of Steamboat Springs just north of Old Town. The property currently hosts one home but is mostly undeveloped.

A satellite image from Google Maps shows the area that is proposed to be annexed into the city of Steamboat Springs just north of Old Town. The property currently hosts one home but is mostly undeveloped.

Legal debate over planning document complicates annexation of subdivision near Old Town


— A 3.21-acre parcel of land to the north of Old Town is another step closer to being annexed into the city of Steamboat Springs for future residential development.

But before the Steamboat Springs City Council makes the final vote on the matter, it wants city staff to do some more homework and create a planning document that will ensure the potential annexation and any subsequent ones are more legally sound.

Local attorney Paul Sachs, who lives across the street from the undeveloped land that is proposed to be annexed, called on the city Tuesday to terminate the annexation proceedings because he said the city hasn't created an important planning document that state law requires to be in place before an annexation can occur.

The plans are commonly referred to as Three Mile Plans, and cities create them to lay out their vision for how annexed lands will develop in the future.

Sachs said such plans are created as part of a public process and incorporate the public's appetite for growing in certain directions and areas.

A 261-page communication from Sachs, which included the copies of several Three Mile Plans from other communities, was included in council's agenda on Tuesday.

City staff counters that they feel the city's Community Area Plan is essentially a Three Mile Plan but with a different name.

City Attorney Dan Foote also noted appellate courts in the state have held that comprehensive plans such as the city's Area Plan qualify as Three Mile Plans.

The Area Plan was created with public input, including a board game that had community members place poker chips to indicate where they would like to see growth in the future.

It also has been updated since it was first adopted in 2004.

However, the spectre of potential legal challenges over future annexations because of the lack of a Three Mile Plan spurred a slim majority of the council on Tuesday to order one before considering the annexation.

"I don't like the word debatable," Councilman Jason Lacy said as he advocated for the city to create the new Three Mile Plan.

He said the city might be meeting the letter of the law with its existing plan, but perhaps not the spirit.

Planning Director Tyler Gibbs said the city could create a Three Mile Plan without doing an intensive amount of work.

Sachs said he felt the city would need a more involved process to create one.

Councilman Scott Ford suggested that the Three Mile Plan was unnecessary work.

"I hesitate to throw a burden on staff and add another wrinkle in what we have," Ford said.

He shared staff's opinion that the city already has a Three Mile Plan that is just called by a different name.

He added that he was not aware of the existence of Three Mile Plans prior to the council meeting, and he predicted most community members would shrug when asked about them.

The council voted, 3-2, to deem the parcel near Old Town eligible for annexation but also have staff create a Three Mile Plan before the annexation is considered at a later date.

Ford and Councilwoman Heather Sloop were the no votes.

Sloop expressed concern about approving the eligibility resolution prior to the formation of a Three Mile Plan.

Councilwoman Kathi Meyer said she wanted a Three Mile Plan to address the potential impact an annexation would have on public works services including transportation, utilities and water and sewer.

If the parcel is annexed, the zoning would be determined at a later date.

Some neighbors of the parcel, which lies at the end of Pahwintah and Douglas streets, have expressed concern about the annexation and the potential for more dense development in the area and the impact such development would have on the neighborhood.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10


Scott Wedel 1 year, 4 months ago

Seems that the current comprehensive plan is vague enough that it doesn't state what sort of development would be allowed on the parcel. It would seem to me that if the comprehensive plan is to be considered an adequate 3 Mile Plan then it must specify how the annexed parcel will be zoned.


Clay Ogden 1 year, 4 months ago

"If the parcel is annexed, the zoning would be determined at a later date."

To me that's the crux of the problem with this process, The developers have stated to me that they would prefer minimal density ... something transitional ... supported by a number of local property owners. The unknown development potential is a huge concern. The city staff and some on council seem to prefer maximum density ... like the transitional mess in cities like Boulder ... open space to maximum density in the blink of an eye.

To me ... the problem with maximum density is the lack of city infrastructure in adjoining streets funneling into Soda Creek Elementary ... narrow streets, no side walks, inconstant snow plowing. Yahmomite and Merritt funnel tons of traffic to SCE already. Someone from city staff needs to watch what happens on Merritt between 8 and 8:30 am and 3 to 3:30 pm to understand the problem.

The developer can't be expected to solve all of these issues on their own ... the city needs to step up, prioritize, and deal with city charter issues like public safety and security (as opposed to notable discretionary items like gravity induced slides at subsidized ski hills) before it expands it's boundaries.

I get the potential need to absorb by expanding through the Urban Growth Boundary .,, but the city (and city staff) also needs to get that it has a responsibility to deal with infrastructure impacts related to that expansion beyond the specific bounds of the UGB.


Steve Lewis 1 year, 4 months ago

Thank you Council for choosing diligence. A good step toward rebuilding trust.

Agree with the above comments. Keep in mind these detachments from the Area Plan the City has adopted or allowed :

1) In the past 4 years, the Community Development Code (CDC) has been significantly revised toward flexible criteria for development. One such CDC revision was across the whole and specific in intent - replacing "project shall adhere to the Area Plan in this regard" with "project should consider Area Plan in this regard."

2) The 2014 effort to update the Area Plan was so poorly attended, the City has formally acknowledged the update was not statistically meaningful. The Pilot, the City, and the County showed far less interest than they gave the 2004 update and the original 1994 plan (formally adopted in 1995). ("It also has been updated since it was first adopted in 2004." is not correct.)

Given this history, the Area Plan carries uncertain, if not abandoned, criteria. Community members are right to ask this parcel's criteria and zoning be in place before the annexation. There has to be public involvement and that requires specific details. Its the same reason we spent a year vetting parameters for SB700.

Along the same thought, earlier that night Tony Connell asked staff to establish the parking spaces needed to serve a built-out downtown. That foresight is wise.


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