Group discusses growth control

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— In response to the results of community surveys taken this summer indicating that the residents of Steamboat Springs believe "growth" to be one of the overwhelming problems in the community, a group of about eight activists decided to do something about it.

The Community Alliance of Yampa Valley, a group about 20 strong, grew from the vision of these residents, who include local activists such as John Spezia, Stuart Orzach and Bob Enever.

The group is funded entirely through private donations.

Many of the issues the organization has confronted fall under the rubric of "growth," as it has been referenced by both the group's members and the public at large, though the organization does not reference the term in its mission statement.

Growth, of course, is not an easy term to wrap one's arms around, but it is the centerpiece of a broad mission that encompasses such issues as protecting the natural environment and limiting the rate of building in the valley.

The alliance's desire is not to eliminate growth but to promote "smart growth," Orzach said.

The evils of rampant growth, Orzach said, have not been adequately dealt with by the local government.

"There was a clear mandate from the citizens and we didn't think the city was really carrying the ball," Orzach said.

Not only was the city not addressing these issues, but there were no other groups that filled the niche, Orzach said.

The members of the group, which is a licensed nonprofit, have spoken out on such issues as gravel pits and the marketing of the tourist economy by the city through annual grants to the resort chamber.

The alliance has not yet made any statements to the public as a group but meets relatively regularly to discuss topics and plan courses of action. Then, with the help of the group, they often take direct action to affect an issue.

Members of the group, for instance, contacted each of the seven City Council members this fall to request that the city reduce or eliminate the use of city funds to promote tourism. They also spoke out in favor of an increase in development application fees collected by the city.

In that sense, the group means to empower individuals to take control of their own lives through the public process, Orzach said.

The group does not necessarily want to limit the number of people who come to live and work in this community, but it does want to keep the borders of development from expanding even further, member John Whittum said.

While he said this process may offend some people who may not be able to build their dream house in the valley, it is integral to preserving the character of the community.

"Whenever you have something worth preserving in the West, you're going to offend somebody who feels it's his right to use his money to do whatever he wants," Whittum said.

The alliance has planned an open house to attempt to attract new members and explain its mission to the public on Saturday, Jan. 27, at 6:30 p.m. at the Depot on Thirteenth Street.

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