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Breckenridge, county eye joint transit system

Caddie Nath
Summit Daily News

BRECKENRIDGE – A new draft of the Joint Upper Blue Master Plan, while establishing guidelines for planning in the Upper Blue Basin, may also pave the way for long-term joint projects between the Town of Breckenridge and Summit County, including a single transit system and Park-and-Ride structures in the basin, officials say.

The new plan will also likely continue successful partnerships between the two municipalities from the old plan, such as the joint transferable development rights and open space programs.

“There’s a lot of cooperation and working together up here that is a great model for the rest of the county where we don’t have that kind of joint master plan,” County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said of the Upper Blue Basin.

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.

Upper Blue elected and planning officials began working late last year on a full renovation of the Upper Blue master plan, now 13 years old.

The master plan will likely include policies establishing the intent of Breckenridge and the county to join forces on a single transit system that will consolidate the Free Ride, Summit Stage and Breckenridge Ski Resort services into one. Policies in the new master plan might also allow the streamlined Upper Blue transportation project to include the construction of Park-and-Ride structures at various locations where flat parking lots currently exist in the basin.

“A lot of this is not laying any real groundwork, but just establishing policies that we want to work together in the future,” Stiegelmeier said. “Ultimately, I think everyone would like to see one transit system in the county.”

It is likely the new master plan will feature policies establishing the intent to build joint affordable housing as well, but plans for all the joint projects are very general in the visionary document.

Breckenridge also requested the updated master plan include an agreement between the town and the county to create “seamless” development regulations. Under the agreement, the county would revise its development code to fall more in line with Breckenridge’s code, which focuses on community character and aesthetic values.

“The hope is that the county can adopt some standards that will see a better end result in terms of development,” said Mark Truckey, assistant director of community development for Breckenridge. “For example, the town has some hill-side standards for development … to try to keep it concealed as much as possible in the trees. The county has talked about that, but has not put any standards in place.”

If the “seamless” development policy is adopted in the new master plan, the county might create an overlay district around Breckenridge where the county code would mirror Breck’s development standards.

But Stiegelmeier said the county has plenty of planning projects to tackle and fewer planners to handle them after a wave of layoffs last October.

“Our only hesitation is, it’s a planning department matter and they have a long, long list of things we would like to see them do,” Stiegelmeier said. “Absolutely, we would like to do that, but where it fits in the priorities … is the question.”

Officials say the updated master plan will also continue existing successful joint programs, including the town and county’s open space program. Through the program the town and county often go in together on the purchase of open space parcels in an effort to protect backcountry or ecologically valuable land from development. The transferable development rights (TDR) program is another joint effort that will likely be continued in the new master plan.

The 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. Government profits from the TDR program are funneled back into the purchase of open space.

Officials will look at an initial draft of the Upper Blue Master Plan update in early March and are planning to host an open public forum to discuss the updated document later in the month.

Final adoption of the revised master plan is in the hands of the Upper Blue Planning Commission.


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