Council adds to 'wish list'

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— City Council President Kevin Bennett said this week he would like to see the city's contribution to the Yampa Valley Land Trust increased next year from $35,000 to $65,000, an 85 percent jump.

Bennett's remarks came during a City Council discussion of City Manager Paul Hughes' mid-year funding wish list. Hughes invited council members to edit or make additions to his list of seven, high-priority projects that he'd like to see funded by a mid-year omnibus spending ordinance in July.

Bennett said he believes the results of a recent community survey support his advocacy of a funding increase for the local land trust. When asked what community feature is most important to their satisfaction with life in Steamboat, poll respondents ranked "quality of the natural environment" No. 1 out of more than 15 features. And, 85.4 percent of the respondents said they either support or strongly support the position that the city should acquire and preserve additional open space.

"I think there's a case to be made that stronger support of the local land trust is the community's wish," Bennett said.

The Yampa Valley Land Trust has been working with property owners in Routt County to place conservation easements on portions of both agricultural and development land. Typically, the easements preclude development on the land they govern, in perpetuity.

Several council members worried that Hughes had left proposed street lighting for Whistler Road off his list.

"I'm not leaving the room," councilwoman Kathy Connell said, until she received assurances that the Whistler lighting project wasn't being overlooked. Street lights for Whistler have been postponed in the last two budget cycles despite council's expressed concerns that the unlit intersection of Walton Creek and Whistler roads is dangerous. The intersection is just south of the ski village, near some high-density townhome projects.

Although Whistler Road is less than a mile in length, the two-phase lighting project is estimated to carry a price tag of about $200,000. City plans tentatively call for both traditional intersection lights and pedestrian-scale lights along sidewalks, like those in downtown Steamboat. City Council did not include the money in the 2000 budget, but added it to a list of a half-dozen items it might consider funding at mid-year. More than $300,000 could be available to City Council at mid-year because sales tax collections for 1999 exceeded budgeted levels, and the trend has continued through the first quarter of 2000.

Hughes told council none of the unbudgeted items from last October's waiting list would make his current list of seven high-priority items. But that doesn't mean the Whistler lighting project has been forgotten, he said.

"We haven't put it on the back burner," Hughes said.

A plan for Whistler lighting will appear in the 2001 budget in October, at the latest, he told council.


To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210 or e-mail tomross@amigo.net

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