Silverthorne’s new comprehensive plan to focus on housing, community elements
This article originally appeared in The Summit Daily on May 30, 2022. Click here to view the original article.
Silverthorne Town Council unanimously approved updates to the town’s comprehensive plan, which includes the addition of housing goals and a community element goal.
Megan Testin, principal at Norris Design, said that a comprehensive plan serves as a guiding document or a vision for the town.
“Sometimes we like to think of it as a funnel,” Testin said. “It’s kind of like the upper level, and it can help trickle down and control what development happens in the town. It can also be a good resource to find funding and to figure out what projects to support as you’re looking at the town and its growth.”
The last time Silverthorne adopted a new comprehensive plan was in 2014. Before that, the town had versions in 2008 and 2001. To build the 2022 plan, Testin said public outreach played a big role in finding out what community members wanted to see in terms of growth.
Almost 500 residents completed a community survey about priorities, and according to the results of that survey, 74% of respondents said that the town was on the right track when it came to growth. Another question asked where respondents would spend $10 on community needs, and residents responded that they would put most of their money on local housing, improving regional traffic and improvements to parks and trails.
“I think some of the main takeaways were that this is a locals-first community,” Testin said. “Of course, visitors are welcome, and we want to have good connections throughout town and maintain that sense of community, which Silverthorne has — the quality of life here and public trails and open space.”
Elena Scott, who is also a principal at Norris Design, added that some of the higher-level changes to the plan include community elements, housing goals, better utilization of the Gateway District of town (the area close to the 205 interchange) and an update to the Three-Mile Plan, which addresses any land that is petitioned to be annexed into Silverthorne.
“From the community-element and housing-element perspective, we wanted to focus on the preservation of the community,” Scott said. “A lot of people really appreciate that Silverthorne has that more ‘locals feel’ than a lot of other destinations.”
She said there are some statistics in the staff report that support the local-first mentality of Silverthorne when looking at the occupancy rates in some of our other neighboring communities in Summit County.
“People understand that, so it’s really important to think about policies that help to guide prioritization of workforce housing, community-essential elements — childcare, grocery, things of that nature — within walkable neighborhood settings, and really thinking about those programs and projects that target a majority of year-round residents,” Scott continued. “Of course we know that we’re going to have a balanced community that’s going to have visitors, part-time residents and full time residents, but part of that ‘knowing your neighbors’ is really reflected in that new community element.”
Scott also said that the team spoke at length about addressing the Blue River’s role in community building and recreation. As town staff and council look at what the Gateway District could look like in the future, Scott said that creating a connection to the river could create an “iconic entrance” into Silverthorne that does not involve the interstate.
Council member Erin Young was involved in working with the comprehensive plan as part of the planning commission in the past, and she said that she appreciates how the team combined the history of Silverthorne with results from surveys taken by the town residents — many of whom have lived in Silverthorne less than seven years.
“(The 2022 plan has) really moved more toward maintaining our town character, and by maintaining our town character, that really is getting some teeth,” Young said. “Now as we move forward with codes, zoning and such — now that we have this plan — we can actually have some teeth in the game where it’s local housing, protecting environmental resources like the river, and supporting local businesses and local events. So I really have appreciated how those iterations are added in.”