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Blueprint for Upper Blue to get an update

Caddie Nath
summit daily news

An update is under way on the now 13-year-old Joint Upper Blue Master Plan, which Summit County planners say will bring it up to date with current conditions and address new planning issues.

The Upper Blue Basin includes unincorporated Summit County from Farmer’s Korner to the Hoosier Pass summit as well as parts of the towns of Breckenridge and Blue River. The master plan serves as a guiding document for planning and development in the basin, used by the Upper Blue Planning Commission, the Summit Board of County Commissioners and the planning commissions and governments of Blue River and Breckenridge as a reference for planning decisions.

The master plan update, expected some time in the spring of 2011, will bring the master plan in line with current goals for limiting potential development and density in the interest of preserving the existing community character and backcountry land. It will also take into account the current status of development in the Upper Blue basin and initial goals in the plan that have already been achieved.

A seven-member advisory committee, formed in October, will take the lead on the update. The committee, along with planning staff members and local governments, will determine how to revise the master plan to maintain a comfortable carrying capacity in the valley without impeding economic development or risking the environment and community character.

“Given current development patterns and levels, there’s a feeling that we’re either at or very close to capacity,” county planner Kate Berg said. “You want to have a sustainable economy, but you also want to protect the resource that people are coming to enjoy.”

The master plan originally set a basin density target of no more than 10,500 developed units, a number that’s already been exceeded. Planners estimate full build-out could realistically be closer to14,000 units.

“The targets were a little too aggressive,” Berg said of master plan’s initial density limitations.

The update will also remove an old density-cap exemption that allowed for new density – parcels of land that have the potential to be developed – to be added to the Upper Blue Basin only if they were to be developed with deed-restricted affordable housing.

“At the time the original Upper Blue was written, (affordable housing) was more of a dream than a reality,” said Eric Mamula, a Breckenridge Town Council member who sits on the Upper Blue advisory committee. “Now that the kind of intense attainable housing that the towns and the county do are a reality, we can’t continue to just make that density out of thin air.”

Adopted in 1997, the joint master plan lays out goals for the protection of backcountry land from development and the control and reduction of potential development density throughout the basin. Planners say 85 percent of the plan’s original goals have been implemented to some degree.

“This has been a very powerful document and will continue to be,” county planner John Roberts said of the Upper Blue master plan. “Thus the importance of updating it.”

Under the guidance of the Upper Blue master plan, 78 percent of rural and backcountry areas have been protected through government open space acquisitions and transferable development rights (TDR).

The county’s TDR program, launched in 2000, allows private property owners to turn a profit by selling off the right to develop their land, either to the county or to private entities looking to use the rights to further develop their own land in urban centers. The program has facilitated the transfer of development out of the backcountry, toward towns and urban areas.


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