Steamboat Springs City Council showed up to listen to its constituents Monday night and heard a thoughtful discussion on the dilemmas created by the issues of growth, affordability, prosperity and quality of life here.
An audience of about 40 people was on hand at Olympian Hall as City Council kicked off the first in a series of three neighborhood meetings. The meetings are intended to put a face -- and some heart and soul -- on the statistical results of the 1999 Community Survey, which was published last month.
"This is part of an ongoing effort by City Council to reach out to the community and to address issues as directly as possible," City Council President Kevin Bennett said.
Monday's meeting was hosted by District 1 (Old Town) councilmen Kevin Bennett and Bud Romberg with at-large councilman Ken Brenner.
The survey, circulated in August 1999, posed more than 130 questions. It was filled out by 1,548 respondents, 73 percent of whom said they were permanent residents of Steamboat.
After City Manager Paul Hughes touched on the statistical highlights, the audience was broken into four groups led by city staffers. The four groups reported back and exchanged notes, but many of the diverse issues they touched on could be traced back to the growth of the community.
John Spezia called for a slowdown in the rate of growth in Steamboat.
"Let's slow down to a rate where we can run up and be abreast of this growth," he said.
Scott Berry said he doesn't understand how the community can address growth issues without confronting the city's involvement in funding the Chamber Resort Association's summer marketing efforts. He reasoned that tourism fuels growth.
"It's going to take a hell of a gutsy vote on the part of council to say no to the chamber, because they've run this town for a hell of a long time," Berry said.
Scott Gordon said people in Steamboat should be aware of the implications of moving away from growth in tourism and sales taxes.
"We should be prepared to know as a community that more of the burden is going to be on ourselves," perhaps including a property tax, Gordon said.
Noreen Moore said she has lived here for 30 years and continues to find her lifestyle to be very good.
"I see things here from a different point of view," Moore said. "I don't mind the traffic. When I see the trucks on Lincoln Avenue, I see the economy. They're my buddies, they're contractors. Who do we want to go? Wait a minute guys, we're the problem."
John Orrell said City Council might have to find a way to spend less money in order to live with slower growth.
"City Council should address needs instead of wants. Think about the guy who's paying the taxes," Orrell said. "The death of the sales tax will be the death of the council -- it won't be the death of the community."
Councilwoman Kathy Connell, speaking from the audience, said she believes an increasing number of visitors and second home owners in the community are taking an active interest in Steamboat's growth problems.
"How can we engage our tourist and second homeowners in the solution?" she asked.
Mark Palmer said the community needs to explore the answer to the question, "Can we have prosperity without a tremendous level of growth?"
"What I'm hearing is we need to put a cap on the level of growth," Palmer said.
-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org