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  • Dylan Anderson

With population stagnant for nearly 50 years, Yampa seeks to balance needed growth with history

Town of 480 residents is working to update its comprehensive plan for the first time since 1997.

Yampa
Crossan's Market in Yampa. (Town of Yampa/Courtesy)

The town of Yampa hasn’t seen much growth since it hit a peak of 472 residents in the 1980s. Founded along a popular stagecoach route in the early 1900s, Yampa grew because of access to bountiful coal fields in the Yampa Valley.


But nearly 120 years since it was incorporated, the town of roughly 480 residents is now working to walk the line of balancing that history with the growth it needs.


Last Wednesday, the Town Board met in one of Yampa’s most historic buildings, Crossan’s Market. The preserved building doubles as town hall, with the board meeting in an upstairs room where historical wooden beams are braced by more modern metal trusses — an adept metaphor for the history the town’s new master plan that hopes to keep while it bolsters the town’s finances with a modest amount of new growth.


The new comprehensive plan is the first update to the document since 1997 and has been in the work for months. It is scheduled to be approved by the board by the end of June, though the conversation Wednesday signaled it could take longer.


The plan delves into many of the topics most master plans explore: urban planning, land use, placemaking, economic development and infrastructure just to name a few. But the draft presented to the board on Wednesday contained a new chapter focused on preserving historical and cultural resources.


“A primary reason people choose to reside in Yampa is because of its distinct historical character and small-town feel, and this historic character forms the basis of the community’s identity,” the draft plan reads. “Preserving and restoring historic buildings to their full potential and leveraging infill development opportunities that complement Yampa’s historic resources are important strategies to enhance the economic vitality of the community and protect Yampa’s cultural and historic heritage.”

This land use map of the town of Yampa included in a draft of the updated comprehensive plan shows areas to the west and south of town where the city limits could expand. (Town of Yampa/Courtesy)

The board and community members at the meeting discussed two avenues to balance history and development, favoring an approach that uses incentives to encourage developers to incorporate historic elements into new buildings instead of using a heavy regulatory approach. The latter was seen as something that could turn potential developers away from building in the town.


“What we need to do for economic development and what we need to do for historic preservation are sort of butting heads,” said resident Janet Ray. “I don’t think it needs to be that way, what I think we need is to educate people on the benefits of historic preservation and the business opportunities that could bring into town, so they could work together and complement each other, rather than be at odds.”


The plan calls for working with groups like the Yampa Egeria Historical Society and Historic Routt County to craft guidelines in the updated town code that would give developers some kind of incentives in exchange for incentives such as less restrictive setback requirements.


One idea discussed would be whether to allow more incentives in the town’s historic core or whether to apply them the same across the town. Resident Heather Gregg suggested they should wait to have those guidelines drafted before they figure out exactly where they should apply.


“I wouldn’t feel comfortable creating a tiered approach without knowing what those guidelines are,” Gregg said.

More broadly, the plan would allow duplexes and townhomes throughout the town among single-family homes, with higher-density multi-family units being allowed in the downtown core along Main Street and Moffat Avenue.


The plan calls for redeveloping the former Royal Hotel site into a new commercial parcel, potentially even combining it with the current post office parcel to incorporate the post office into what is built on the former hotel site. The plan also points to parcels just behind Main and Moffat for potentially higher density such as tiny homes.


The plan also identifies two large parcels for potential growth of the town’s limits, one to the west of town and another to the south.


The town board will meet about the plan again on June 21, where it is currently scheduled to be approved, though it appeared Wednesday that would likely be pushed off until a meeting on July 12. Once approved, the town has a long list of policies that would need to be implemented in the short and longer term to make sure the plan is put into effect.


“We’re going to be busy,” said Mary Alice Page-Allen, the town’s development director.


Read the latest version of the plan included with the town board's packet here. Submit comments on the plan here.

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