Steamboat Springs It is no surprise that downtown construction is presenting challenges for the city of Steamboat Springs and its residents.
However, describing it as a "war zone" - as Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord did last week- might be stretching things a bit.
We view the ongoing construction as short-term pain that will produce long-term gain. With several major public and private projects scheduled to begin this year, we knew sometime back that this would be a summer like no other downtown. We expected the worst.
Still, the work will be worth it. The projects under way - The Victoria, Alpenglow, the Olympian, Howelsen Place, the Boathouse, the library expansion, Soda Creek Elementary and Old Town Hot Springs - are welcome additions that will vastly change downtown for the better. In the long run, existing downtown businesses will reap rewards from the current construction that will greatly outweigh the inconveniences they are suffering now.
The downtown construction issue came to a forefront in the past week. Steamboat Springs City Councilman Ken Brenner complained that the Howelsen Place project is negatively impacting downtown businesses and streetscapes in the midst of summer tourism. He said chain-link fences around construction sites should be covered. Councilman Towny Anderson said sites need to be cleaned better.
Asphalt shortages and "miscommunication" have led to loose gravel on city roadways, city officials and contractors agreed.
In the short term, the city plans to take a strong stand on enforcement, DuBord said. As part of the planning process, contractors agree to abide by construction site management plans. Those plans cover such things as cleanliness of the site, staging construction, rights of way, parking and equipment storage. DuBord said city officials are meeting with downtown contractors Thursday to review the site plans and inform those contractors that the city will be diligent in enforcing the plans. DuBord said strict enforcement - "No more warnings," she said - is necessary given the level of construction. She said the city has received numerous complaints, primarily from downtown businesses, about parking, dust, noise and alley obstructions stemming from downtown construction.
"To have these projects all go forward at the same time really is a big impact to the community," DuBord said, "and it's our job to mitigate those impacts as best we can."
DuBord said the city is prepared to issue "stop work" orders if necessary.
We hope it doesn't come to that.
Strict enforcement of construction site management plans is warranted, and it is appropriate for the city to meet with contractors to review the issues and warn them of the strict enforcement policy. Surely, contractors are prepared to comply, and the city will act within reason.
Here's hoping issues can be resolved without having to delay any of the projects. That simply worsens the problem.
We are excited about the transformation of downtown and believe it will pay dividends in the long run for the community as a whole. But, as we are seeing, getting there requires a little patience and understanding on all sides.