Growth was a big issue locally until about seven or eight years ago.
Polls then showed up to 80 percent of respondents wanted some degree of control. Instead, piece-meal growth has run rampant, rubber-stamped by successive City Councils. Like the issue of illegal aliens, growth discussion is simply not on the agenda - no editorials, very few letters to the editor and no attention by community activists. Has everyone in town succumbed to the lure of commercialism?
Now, we are faced with wholesale growth by the appearance of Steamboat 700 LLC. Proponents have been quietly showing preliminary plans to key people, stressing small units and "affordable" housing, obviously to lessen opposition.
Let's consider the impacts if the elected officials or the voters approve the project:
Population: No one has a clue what the current population of Steamboat really is. Transient and illegal alien numbers are a mystery. Twelve thousand seems conservative enough. Using 3.5 persons/household times 2,500 units rounds to about 9,000. Add a couple more thousand for other growth and we're looking at another 11,000. That's 23,000, more or less, nearly double the current size.
Car: Conservatively, let's estimate two per household or 5,000 from this project. We are already seeing bumper-to-bumper traffic from 13th Street to the Elk River intersection. We are overloaded with traffic now with no bypass or other solution to the traffic and parking problem in sight. Bicycle and bus promotions will not solve it. At last night's meeting, the traffic consultant said he projected 15,000 trips per day between the project and downtown. They were planning "mitigation" to alleviate this problem. What mitigation is possible?
Water: There have been negotiations with Steamboat II Metro District to its city water line. Does the city have enough water to sustain a 23,000-person population? The last I heard, 15,000 was the sustainable limit. Does the proponent have water rights to serve the project? One consultant said he "thought" water was no problem.
Sewage: Will the proponent build a new treatment plant or will we the taxpayers foot the cost of enlarging the present facility?
Quality of Life: We have lost a lot of it in the rush to commercialism the past three decades. Do we want to permit further loss on a wholesale scale? We have already lost the "friendly little western town" image that the Chamber Resort Association still touts. We are already "any-town USA." (Let's be honest and take down the spur symbols on Lincoln.)
Social: More of everything - law enforcement; jail and school space; welfare, ad infinitum.
I have been sending e-mails to city- and county-elected officials asking them why not voluntarily put any application for annexation to the public vote, including county residents. The response has been zilch. I believe that west of Steamboat planning, affordable housing and their general thirst for growth and prosperity have put our elected officials squarely in the pockets of the developers, regardless of the consequences cited above.
There was a good turnout for the 700 LLC presentation at Olympian Hall last night, I tried to get some answers on water supply, but none of the experts/consultants would, or could, be very specific. The development's project manager said he wants a series of public forums - hopefully ending in a plebiscite.
Omar M. Campbell