Intrawest's $265 million purchase of Steamboat Ski Area, below center, in March brought wide-ranging improvements and vitality to the resort. Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall, below left, made headlines throughout the year as did Steamboat Springs School Board member John DeVincentis, below right. But above all, the cranes and construction projects downtown and at the ski base will leave a long-lasting stamp on our community and the year of 2007.

File photo

Intrawest's $265 million purchase of Steamboat Ski Area, below center, in March brought wide-ranging improvements and vitality to the resort. Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall, below left, made headlines throughout the year as did Steamboat Springs School Board member John DeVincentis, below right. But above all, the cranes and construction projects downtown and at the ski base will leave a long-lasting stamp on our community and the year of 2007.

Year of the crane

A look back at an action-packed 2007

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— There were few dull moments in 2007.

A $265 million ski area sale that brought new vitality to the resort, a City Council upheaval, a massive proposed annexation, affordable housing policies, the sale of Ski Time Square, a bought-out superintendent, a vastly improved airport in Hayden, controversial e-mails and a failed recall effort involving a School Board member, a broken water pipe and emergency portable toilets, historic preservation and Iron Horse debates, a rejected recreation center, a sheriff facing charges, growth across Routt County, tragic deaths, a baby boom, and a December filled with snow.

To name a few.

Although these issues captivated us, there was constant news, throughout it all, of a single theme that will have profound, lasting impacts on the Yampa Valley.

That theme is construction. Demolished landmarks and new groundbreakings were a seemingly daily occurrence in months marked by trucks and traffic, hard hats and hope. The construction of 2007 at the ski base, in downtown Steamboat and across Routt County will reshape our communities for decades to come.

Here's a look at the year that was.

Transformation

Locals have differing views about the construction that dominated the sights and sounds of Steamboat Springs this year. Local historian Bill Fetcher said it made him feel "helpless," while Sandy Evans Hall said she feels "a sense of anticipation."

"I anticipate the end of the construction, the finished product and the changes that will come," said Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

The transformations reminded Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak that change is inevitable. Mike Forney said 2007's theme song should be "I've Only Just Begun." Fetcher preferred "Big Yellow Taxi," a song whose dismal lyrics include, "They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot."

Many counted the March 1 sale of the Steamboat Ski Area to Intrawest as the most newsworthy event of 2007. That, and the urban renewal authority projects at the base of the ski area that got under way this year, are two giant catalysts sparking development interest in Steamboat Springs.

With changes come losses, but also optimism. Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said the 2007 loss that she will miss most is the margaritas at Dos Amigos, the Ski Time Square restaurant that said "adios" Sept. 2. But overall, DuBord expressed excitement about the ongoing transformation of the base area.

"I think that the redevelopment of the base area is a really defining project for the city," DuBord said. "It's certainly inconvenient and it's disruptive while it's happening, but it's exciting. What we're doing now I'm sure citizens will be living with for decades."

Dos Amigos, along with the rest of Ski Time Square and the Thunderhead Lodge, sold on April 26 to Cafritz Interests of Washington, D.C., for $53.9 million. The real-estate development firm plans to demolish both properties at the end of this ski season. Dos Amigos owner Gary Baxter was one businessman who chose to bail out early. While Baxter's departure and others saddened some in 2007 - and while the loss of the Tugboat and many other businesses will do the same in 2008 - other losses are welcomed.

The demolition of Checkpoint Charlie, for example, was conducted with a champagne celebration.

"The unmanned booth at the entrance to Ski Time Square that would fool visitors and annoy locals for the past 25 years was taken down to a drum roll and crowd of 100 or more people," Evans Hall said. "It was a secret part of the ground breaking ceremony for the urban renewal project that had Ski Time Square in pieces all summer. Those of us who stood out in the rain to watch the demolition were thoroughly entertained."

The transformations extend from the mountain through downtown and all the way to Hayden, whose own building boom included the ground breaking of a new Coca-Cola distribution center. The town's growth is evidenced in the resurgence of the Hayden Chamber of Commerce and the town's efforts to move the Police Department out of its cramped Town Hall offices and into its own facility.

Between Hayden and Steamboat, the $24.6 million, March 19 sale of the 700-acre Brown property portends changes of a colossal scale. Steamboat 700 developers propose to build more than 2,000 homes on the site, which would be annexed into the city. While in its infancy year's end, the development dominates city agendas and headlines.

At the polls

Elections "always are the most important event in a democracy," County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said last week.

The year of the crane made for a contentious 2007 election. Five Steamboat Springs City Council seats were up for election, and the issue of how candidates would handle growth dominated a campaign that devolved into negativity by Election Day. In the end, local politicians were not immune to the vast changes sweeping the community - all three incumbent candidates lost their seats by substantial margins.

Or, as Forney put it, "Never have so many inflicted their dissatisfaction and outrage on so few." Forney said the election had him feeling "disgust with the mudslinging, but jubilation with the results."

Other convincing defeats included a proposed, property-tax funded, $34 million recreation center at Ski Town Fields. The recreation center lost by a 4-1 margin. A county property tax issue that would have funded road improvements and other capital projects also lost at the polls.

Taxpayers did, however, decide that their money was worth getting coal dust out of the lungs of South Routt students, and approved ballot measures that will allow the school district to replace it's aging heating systems.

Tragedy

Routt County mourned the deaths of South Routt teenagers Sam Hedemark and Chris Fuller, which occurred in a June 23 oil tank explosion near Chapman Reservoir in Rio Blanco County. On Sept. 6, the death of 1-year-old Brianna Simon in Steamboat Springs began an investigation into what could be Steamboat's first homicide since May of 2000. Brianna's mother, Luz Cisneros, has been charged with murder and is due to appear for arraignment at 4 p.m. March 13. No trial date has been set.

Early in the year, Routt County's hearts went out to Molly Look of North Routt, then 3, who on Jan. 17 spent about 30 minutes outside in subzero temperatures while wearing only a longsleeve shirt. A widespread response and fundraising effort helped Molly recover from frostbite and brought a community together.

Drama

Steamboat Springs School Board member DeVincentis was cast into the spotlight this year with the disclosure of e-mails he sent while principal of Strawberry Park Elementary School to Joby McGowan, a teacher in Mercer Island, Wash., about former Steamboat Springs Superintendent Cyndy Simms.

"I can't imagine being married to her," an excerpt from one e-mail states. "I would have been arrested for battering and abuse!!"

The venomous nature of the e-mails sparked outrage in the community. On July 12, a recall effort fell 154 votes short of the 1,933 needed to remove DeVincentis from office.

About a month later, on Aug. 10, the School Board bought out Superintendent Donna Howell's contract, citing a "contentious" working relationship with Howell. Many counted the $270,000 buyout as among the worst news of 2007, including Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger and Evans Hall. Howell was later tapped to lead the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.

"One of the worst things that happened in 2007 was the loss of" Howell, Evans Hall said. "After the passage of the school bond issue, the development of Camp Soda Creek, the positive relationships that had been built in the community, I felt this was a loss for the school district. Fortunately, it will be a gain for the Yampa Valley Housing Authority."

Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall continues to dominate headlines after an Oct. 27 incident that resulted in his being cited for DUI and other charges. At year's end, the Colorado Department of Revenue has upheld a one-year suspension of Wall's driver's license for his refusal to take a chemical breath test. The criminal trial is scheduled for Jan. 16, 2008.

The incident is one of several controversies involving the sheriff in his first year of office. Wall acknowledges and, in fact, embraces his controversial nature, but has said he is discouraged that the incident has overshadowed his more positive actions as sheriff, including his efforts to provide the county with 24-hour law enforcement coverage.

"Unfortunately, Gary's public statements and actions left him wide open for news coverage, most of it negative, which has gotten in the way of his laudable efforts to reform the sheriff's office," Forney said.

The lighter side

Evans Hall was disappointed that Wall's DUI allegations overshadowed the celebration of the Chamber's 100th anniversary, which the sheriff was returning from when pulled over by Colorado State Patrol.

"The Chamber celebrated its past successes in the mining, agriculture and tourism industries and looked to the future in sustainable business practices," Evans Hall said of the event, which saw Realtor David Baldinger Jr. named businessperson of the year and Prudential Steamboat Realty the business of the year.

Steamboat's growth saw many new businesses and businesspeople emerge, from restaurants such as bistro c.v. to Joe Ross's Dogpile Industries, born of the need to clean up dog waste revealed by the spring thaw.

"It's a crappy job, but somebody has to do it," Ross's fliers stated.

On Sept. 11, 2007, an excavator working at the site of the Bud Werner Memorial Library expansion broke a water line, leaving the west side of Steamboat and hundreds of residents without usable water for two days. While it was far from a "light" issue at the time - there was not even fire protection at one point in west Steamboat - city officials can look back at the lighter side. City Clerk Julie Jordan earned the nickname "Potty Queen" for her concerted efforts to get portable toilets set up at convenient locations throughout the city.

The no water use order lasted two days and forced the city to engage its emergency management practices. DuBord called it one of the proudest moments of city staff and praised citizens for rolling with the punches.

"In true Steamboat style, they made the most of a sour situation," DuBord said. "I only got one really kind of serious mad complaint."

In October, the Colorado Rockies improbable run to the World Series provided a pleasant surprise and gave birth to the new month of "Rocktober."

"That was fun," said Assistant City Manager Lauren Mooney. "That was an exciting time. People got more knowledgeable about baseball who never watched it before."

Looking forward

Many said the 2008 elections will be the most notable event of next year, and not just because it's a presidential election. This month, Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman decertified or conditionally certified voting equipment throughout the state, including machines used in Routt County. At year's end, it still is uncertain how Routt County will vote - paper ballot, electronically or mail-in - and whether the votes will be counted by hand or machine.

"The most newsworthy event of 2008 will be the elections," said Stahoviak, who will seek re-election to her county commissioner seat. "We could be in for a bumpy ride."

Proponents for the recreation center defeated in the 2007 election also don't plan to give up. Forney said the most newsworthy event of 2008 will be an "announcement of a viable plan to meet the community's recreation needs."

Comments

jezilu 6 years, 11 months ago

take a chill pill mike. for someone who does not like the pilot, you spend a lot time with it.

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 11 months ago

dimmy darn, I wish I could have seen your post before it was removed, I am sitting in the lobby of the Sheraton right now with both the pilot in hand and on my computer, what better to ad to the nice cold Fat tire than your prose, and I haven't even read the article yet, will be home in a bit so as not to use my battery up, went to the comments first, oh well maybe you will try again.............

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Zalobar 6 years, 11 months ago

Hi Dimwit No Im not here to bash you or anyone else. Prefering to keep things peacful, loving and forward looking. I remember the article about Elk habitat up by the SB700 lands. Likely 2008, biggest issue, I am a conservative on global issues and find it better to as they say act localy. The SB 700 could increase density by having duplex, fourplex, and up to 25 unit buildings on 150 to 200 acres instead of 2000 or more single fam homes spread all over 700 acres. Dedicate the northhern most 500 acres to habitat. This would be less intrusive to the land and habitat already there, saving a few million on paving paradise. Also reducing the carbon footprint by 25% or more by having common walls to units, making for fewer exterior walls to heat. 2000 units at 2.5 person average @ unit is 5000 people. Almost half the population of SS and a quarter of the population of Routt CO. I have mentioned in past blog the YVHA hould set aside 100 acres for affordable development. Doesnt have to be all in one spot or happen all at once. Some up by Strawberry Park, some west end, some south valley. larger buildings higher density closer to most present commuters jobs. Instead of building more Quali Runs or the Like keep these units small and simple, easy to heat, building green etc. Everyone wins except those who would prefer a planned shortage of affordable housing to enhance their greed for equity financial gains. We really are all in the same BOAT here, we need to start caring for our selves, each other, the environment and the animals who were after all here first. They may be a little lower on the food chain, but where would we be witout them? What does it mean to be a steward? So we reduce the # of miles commuted saving fuel lives and reducing carbon footprint. Save heating requirements with density, lowering carbon footprint, save land and habitat. If the warming issue is sunspots, well at least we did the best we could as stewards rather than being of a bunch of greedy, fill in blank.

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Zalobar 6 years, 11 months ago

Adendim, (pun), I cant help but notice the progress La Farge is making with the batch plant over next to TCC by the James Brown bridge. If you go to

http://www.steamboatvillagebrokers.com/newsletters/svb_w2008.pdf

You will be right in the PDF map and all on 13 new large building projects slated for the Base area re-development alone. These are Mega projects and dont even take into account ongoing development at places like Sanctuary, Sydney peak, Mc kenna ranch, WildHorse, Basicly every thing south of Anglers drive. Do we still think a Gravel Pit (with batch plants) south of SS is a bad idea? Presently the only gravel (products) pit in the area is in Milner. Duckels is buying most of their products from them too. Try to buy anything but sand, topsoil or cobble from Duckels. They will send you packing. Redmond pit out by Stagecoach, has an excelent product for building roads and providing drainage. Not good for batching concrete or asphalt. Look at the road that must be used to transport Redmond materials to South SS areas. RCR 14? Not only are we going to run out of Mined products completely but we are going to be forced to travel farther and farther for Mined Building materials. Not an environmently sound management practice. I have been out of the loop re. future supplies applications and permits but The placement of La Farges new concrete batch plant speaks volumes. In an attempt to save the south valley from gravel pits and or batch plants we are (damning)the entire Highway 40 corridor from Rabbit Ears pass to Milner with unnessary traffic exaserbating the carbon footprint problem. . Then Where?? True LaFarge might have permition to mine gravel south of SS, But no batch plants were authorized. Remember the warm jello? No bowls? Would you like a fork with that? Which eye would you like it in? The people spoke clearly at the last election, Isnt it time the people take an interest in what a few are putting off on all of us with this insane planned shortage of Mined building supplies? How about we the people and the SS Pilot Today put the School board and Howell and Dr. D isues behind us and start some serious inquiry into the underpinnings of these planned shortages of Affordable employee class housing and The Materials to remedy these problems?

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colowoodsman 6 years, 11 months ago

It is a terrible shame that these 'cranes' have replaced the preivious ones, the 'sandhills'. If this is what the Pilot considers good for the valley then we are definitly in need of a new publisher that understands what life here is about!!!

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 11 months ago

the sandhills are still there, as they have been for 100 years, just not everyday........................

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dimwitiguess 6 years, 11 months ago

Howell got what she deserved and so did Simms. They're both gone and the Pilot has no reputation worth reporting.

Mike Forney didn't answer the questions about his Rotarians. Yeh the Pilot will protect him and PrincipallySent and Howell and Sims.

Standford and Schlict and now Boyer are obviously not able to be pinned up for their contribution to Gleason's and Howell's actions. Everyone knows Standford was behind a lot of it along with Cooper-Black, Sharp, Loomis, Gleason, Miller-Fruetel, Havener, Stephenson and all the rest.

Yeh, Boyer, delete this one too. THere are no swear words or anything like that, but if you're going to sum up the year then you should write the names of those who took place in the district's attempted coup.

You lost Pilot and the district is better off without Howell and the excess baggage she had with her.

This is no worse than your out-of-context reporting. But you can take it off if you want. It's your rag.

What do you all have planned for 2008? What other lynching is in your new year's wishes. D again?

Yours truly, Pilolt staff,

dimwitiguess

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 11 months ago

very possible colowood, we saw them there last year in the spring, but they may be getting fussier about their habitat and moving on to areas with less activity, they really hate the coyotes and fox. they are reported in the Heyden area, but we have not observed them there. don't give up looking, lots of luck at all you do........

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colowoodsman 6 years, 11 months ago

condo---- I hardly ever see sandhills west of 131 anymore. I don't belive they are as numerous as when I moved here in the 70's.

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 11 months ago

the sandhills are the most common crane in North America, they breed a lot in Canada, but N.W. Colo, as well as Idaho, Wyo. and Mont. they migrate in the spring and fall and can be seen from Canada to New Mexico, as far east as Nebraska, we see them most often South of Steamboat, just west off hwy 131, and in abundance in the Hayden area as well. They are also abundant on the front range along the No. and So. Platt rivers.

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