Overall, the city of Steamboat Springs should feel good about the results of the 2002 Steamboat Springs Community Survey.
This year's survey was exhaustive in scope, which made it time-consuming for residents to complete but also ensured the results would provide the kind of detailed information the city needs as it sets priorities for the future. In that respect, the survey should prove to be a valuable tool for the City Council.
Several things are clear from the results. First off, people like living in Steamboat some 85 percent said the quality of life is good or excellent.
Generally, the city got high marks for its services and facilities. Residents said they strongly support protecting Steamboat's natural resources and continuing to preserve open space, even if it means increased taxes.
The survey showed residents are most appreciative of the recreation opportunities in the city and want the city to continue to provide such opportunities, including developing more pedestrian and bike trails. And residents want better roads.
The survey also is clear about problem areas. Residents believe residential growth and commercial growth have been excessive. They aren't happy with the Steamboat Springs Airport and the Stockbridge park-and-ride facility. Also, residents said they are concerned Steamboat is losing its sense of community and that the city's quality of life is on the decline, although those responses are not unique to Steamboat.
The survey showed a more fickle attitude on several other issues. Eighty-six percent of the respondents said affordable housing is a problem. And it was cited frequently as one of the top two priorities for the city in the future. But a high percentage of residents also cited affordable housing among the lowest priorities for the future, and only 27 percent of those surveyed said they would support increased taxes to help provide more affordable housing.
Residents complained that leash laws aren't enforced strictly enough while at the same time seeking parks where their dogs can roam leash free. Residents dislike the level of traffic but showed little interest in utilizing the city's free bus system (though many respondents did feel strongly that others should use the bus system). And "more facilities, more events" was cited as a reason why the quality of life in Steamboat has improved and as a reason why the quality of life in Steamboat has declined.
Finally, there's the question of how to pay for the things residents said they want. Forty-four percent said they want the city to hold the line on taxes and cut services if necessary, while 40 percent said the city should raise taxes to maintain and improve services. With a 3-percent margin of error, that's a statistical dead heat. Put price tags on some of the services and projects mentioned in the survey and the responses might be vastly different.
Such ambiguity demonstrates the need to maintain perspective on the survey. As noted above, it is a valuable tool in helping the City Council shape the city's future. But it is important to remember the survey should be used as a guide, not a mandate.