City Councilwoman Meg Bentley listens to commentary during her first council meeting at Centennial Hall in Steamboat Springs on Nov. 13. Bentley urges the community to get involved in Steamboat 700 discussions.

Photo by Brian Ray

City Councilwoman Meg Bentley listens to commentary during her first council meeting at Centennial Hall in Steamboat Springs on Nov. 13. Bentley urges the community to get involved in Steamboat 700 discussions.

Bentley urges negotiations

Councilwoman wants public involvement in Steamboat 700 discussions

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— Meg Bentley is urging her fellow members of the Steamboat Springs City Council not to yield too much authority to city staff and the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission when it comes to negotiations with the developers of Steamboat 700.

"It's my feeling that based on my interpretation of the (Community Development Code) and my intention to be accountable to the public : we, the council, need to be in on the ground floor negotiating the details of the pre-annexation agreement," Bentley said at a City Council meeting Tuesday.

Steamboat 700 is a proposed development west of the city that could include more than 2,000 homes. Residential construction is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of 2009. Developers hope to have the project annexed into city limits, a process that will involve extensive negotiations between the city and the developers.

The result of those negotiations will be spelled out in a pre-annexation agreement that could include a number of public-benefit demands on the developer - from the construction of roads, a fire station and other infrastructure, to affordable housing requirements.

Considering the size of the project - which some have referred to as a whole new town - and its potential to address city needs, Bentley said elected officials need to be the ones leading the process in a public setting.

"It is huge, and I really think we need to step up to the plate," she said.

City Council President Loui Antonucci noted that council members will be the ones ultimately responsible for the pre-annexation agreement and other decisions, but he questioned the feasibility of the seven council members handling every aspect of the negotiations.

"I believe that in the end we need to be the ones who approve the pre-annexation agreement," Antonucci said. "I'm just trying to figure out how we make this work."

Bentley responded by pressing for more than just final approval.

"I'm not sure I'm comfortable just being responsible in the end," Bentley said.

Steamboat 700's developers, legal counsel and consultants have begun meeting with city staff on a weekly basis for discussions that are not open to the public and do not include City Council members. City Attorney Tony Lettunich said such meetings are typical of any development application. He said the meetings include a lot of "give and take" and candid conversations that would not be possible in a public setting.

"They're just staff meetings," Lettunich said Tuesday. "This happens frequently."

Planning Director Tom Leeson said staff considered having a council member present at the meetings but decided it would be better to present information to City Council as a whole. Leeson said it is difficult to respond to Bentley's request that negotiations become "more public" when the city has not yet talked about "how public" they will be in the first place.

"She (Bentley) was making the assumption that all the negotiations are going to be done by staff," Leeson said Wednesday. "That's certainly not our intent."

Leeson said city staff will ultimately do whatever the City Council decides, but he said it would be best for them to stick to the major policy issues involved and leave the minutia to staff.

"I think it will be very difficult for the City Council to be the ones who negotiate all the details in a public setting," Leeson said.

Leeson also said the meetings being held now are not of any great consequence and have mostly concerned process, expectations and scheduling.

"We haven't started any kind of negotiations," Leeson said.

Bob Weiss, the Steamboat 700 developers' local legal counsel, agreed and said there has been "no discussion of any substance at all."

"I think the Planning Commission and the council are going to be fully involved in this," Weiss said Wednesday. "It's certainly going to be a project controlled by them, which has always been our expectation."

The first public meeting scheduled since developers turned in their initial submittal for the project is Jan. 15 during a joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission. Routt County officials also will be invited.

Comments

QuitYerWhining 6 years, 4 months ago

What do you need a planning staff for then? For that matter what do you need a development code for? Do everyone an favor and get rid of the whole process and let town council make all the decisions just like the good old days. The good ole boy system is a heck of alot easier(?).....just dont get sqeemish and whine about the end results.

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Vince arroyo 6 years, 4 months ago

Great job Meg! In standing up for us. I totally agree that we all should be involved in this process. Jan 15 mark your calendars

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Gadfly 6 years, 4 months ago

Meg: The five former council members are "former" in large part because they insisted on micromanaging instead of taking care of the big picture as they were elected to do. For crying out loud, let staff bring you the whole package and then feel free to go through it with a fine-tooth comb -- adding, deleting and changing as you please. If you don't have anything else to do, I'd be happy to make a few suggestions.

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letomayo 6 years, 4 months ago

Oh so we'll trust Bob Weiss to tell the council that it can't negotiate and that it is too much. We should leave it up to city staff? What are the staff members connections to the developers and to the Browns and to contractors? Council is just going to vote yes or no?

What happens when the agreement comes to council and council has concerns are they going to vote yes on parts and no on other parts? Then is city council going to send it back after voting it down?

Isn't Louie a developer or something along those lines? Who is he pulling for? I thought there was a fight over who controlled council - developers or citizens who represent us all.

Doesn't it seem that staff may be out of it's league with a bunch of self interested developers? The developers are probably liking this idea.

Meg is on the right track I think.

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quietman 6 years, 4 months ago

Gadfly, the last council was probably the one council in the last few that truly had nothing to gain with this annex. The current council for the most part was put in place by and for all those that have the most to gain. Follow the contributions, they speak loud and clear. Ms Hermancinski is pro tem for a reason. From the very first council meeting she has voiced her desire to limit the public's involvement, so I think your suggestion of "adding, deleting and changing" won't be happening for the citizens. The "adding, deleting and changing" will be the job of the "4 new council members", and the 100 people they represent and owe.

Letomayo and hometown, thank you for continuing to connect the dots. We all need to be involved and watch closely.

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Gadfly 6 years, 4 months ago

Yes, quietman, watch closely and be sure to check under the bed for evil developers. Funny how the new Council members got the votes of thousands, not just 100.

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beentheredonethat 6 years, 4 months ago

let staff bring you the whole package and then feel free to go through it with a fine-tooth comb -- adding, deleting and changing as you please.

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nofear 6 years, 4 months ago

Thousands voted for all the candidates, Gad, not just the winners.

Isn't interesting that you mentioned evil developers, not Quietman? So you know the amount of money put behind the new council was linked to the biggest moneymaking proposition in our community's near future. Developing 700 acres is certainly something important enough to ensure the right group was in place for its approval. Don't act like we're hicks, Gad. We got it.

It doesn't surprise me then that you feel increased public input and focus by city council on a project that will double the size of our town is "micromanaging". If the public/council aren't paying attention, approval is much, much smoother. Life for those in the wings drooling over the money to be made is certainly improved.

It is exactly as Ms. Bentley stated, "we, the council, need to be in on the ground floor negotiating the details of the pre-annexation agreement." That is certainly what I would expect from someone hired as a public official. Quietone got it right, we the citizens need to be there, too, involved and watching closely.

Nothing bigger than this annexation will happen to this community over the next twenty years or more. The annexation agreement will cover everything. It is the community's opportunity to direct how that area will look, how it will grow, how it will be served, how it will contribute to the existing community, and most importantly, how it will pay for itself. All before it is accepted as an annexation.

We, the citizens, need to do much more than "adding, deleting and changing" a predetermined agreement. We need to demand our council work with us to clarify our expectations, define our needs and then have an agreement written to our specifications.

We citizens need to take control of our community. Our government is directed by us, working for us, get out there and demand they do the best for us.

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zirkel 6 years, 4 months ago

Who needs professional engineers, planners and attorneys if city council, or more specifically, Ms. Bentley, is going to (continue to) micro-manage its staff?

Imagine working for a boss who doesn't seem to understand he has a competent, profession staff at his disposal, and changes his mind every couple of years as to how he want the business run.

I think Ms. Bentley needs to better familiarize herself as to the public review and approval processes already established in the community development code.

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nofear 6 years, 4 months ago

zirkel- Developing policy and identifying community needs has to be done with the extremely professional staff AND the bosses. They have two different perspectives that need to be represented.

This community has gotten into a bad habit of developing documents to discuss instead of documents that respond to discussion.

Both our professional staff and our electeds have to work together to better represent our desires. It must stop being a turf war or a blame game because people with less than honorable intentions have and will capitalize on a divided community.

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dimwitiguess 6 years, 4 months ago

Micromanaging staff isn't the issue. If you want the staff to study something then the staff should deliver a number of choices for council to consider. Otherwise the staff does all the work, the council questions it (afterall they are the electeds) or elements of it and they are told they are micromanaging at a later date.

Council should ask for options from the staff and then decide from the OPTIONS. That separates all of the issues and allows alternatives to be thought of in advance creating a better plan.

But heck, who am I, just a dimwitiguess

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dogd 6 years, 4 months ago

This (the 700) is vastly too important to let color-by-number "OPTIONS" be dictated by a staff trained to handle theoretical and numerical propositions. There are aspects to the outcomes of this that no staff member can be trained to anticipate or even appreciate.

NOBODY should view the last election results as a mandate for developers. It was a reaction to arrogant and hasty decision-making, and that reaction was-"throw the bums out". There was NOT a huge sentimental turn toward rubber-stamping developers.

This annexation should be decided by THE VOTERS WHO WILL BE HUGELY AFFECTED BY THIS FOR GENERATIONS. Good step Meg, but not the staff, not you; LET THE VOTERS DECIDE.

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dogd 6 years, 4 months ago

Quityer:

That's developer bull. This particular decsision is SO far larger than the scope of what a planning staff is hired for that your point is ridiculous.

You do not add the potential chaos and disruption of an addition this large without taking a LONG good look, and letting the PEOPLE decide- not the developers about annexation.

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