700 in focus

City Council Candidates differ on annexation

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— It's been called everything from the biggest thing to face Steamboat Springs in 30 years to the city's last chance to confront its affordable housing crisis.

Regardless of where they stand on those claims and others, all 10 candidates for Steamboat Springs City Council agree on one thing: If elected, the potential annexation of the Steamboat 700 development is one of the most - if not the most - important issues they will face in years to come.

Interviews with the candidates reveal that the results of this Tuesday's election, in which five of the council's seven seats are up for grabs, could directly affect the future development of 700 acres west of the city - including whether such development goes through.

Candidates offer different opinions about how to negotiate a pre-annexation agreement with 700's developers and how demanding the city should be with requirements such as infrastructure and community benefits. Steamboat 700 Project Manager Danny Mulcahy said he and his partners have several contingency plans in place, should the city demand so much that the project is no longer profitable. Mulcahy would not expound on those plans except to say that he might walk away from the project "in a heartbeat" if that happens or sit on the land for 10 years until prices reach "Aspen levels."

But Mulcahy hopes not, and doesn't expect, to put those contingency plans to use.

"I don't expect the community to push back to a point that I'm going to walk away," he said last week. "We're here to get this thing done."

Mulcahy would not respond to any candidate statements leading up to the election. He said he hopes that whoever is elected will be temperate in their requests and work "in collaboration instead of confrontation."

"I'm not looking for anything special, except that we work in a timely, efficient manner," Mulcahy said.

No tumbleweeds

At-large candidate and incumbent Councilman Towny Anderson is the candidate who has most often cited Steamboat 700 annexation as the most important issue that will face the next City Council.

"It has the potential to nearly double our population," he said. "That's the level of impact, and that's its remarkable opportunity and potential. : I can't think of a single other community that has the opportunity that Steamboat has. We literally could define a whole new course in community planning."

Anderson is also the candidate who spoke strongest for the city sticking to its guns and getting what it needs out of an annexation agreement, without bending to the developer.

"There's no example of a municipality looking back at an annexation and saying we were too hard on a developer," Anderson said. "Because this community struggled for so long, there's a fear that if the developer walked, tumbleweeds would be blowing down Lincoln Avenue. Now if a developer walks, there's probably going to be 10 more behind him. We've been discovered. It's OK to take the time to get it right."

Representing a more cautious standpoint is Jon Quinn, candidate for a four-year District 3 seat.

"We're going to get everything we possibly can out of the 700 development," Quinn said. "But if the city pushes them too far, their contingency plan is to parcel that lot out into 35-acre lots and at least walk away intact. That would be a disaster. : We need to see through the development of a community there. We don't need another Marabou."

Cari Hermacinski, Anderson's at-large opponent, agreed that it is fair for the city to make strong demands on Mulcahy and his partners, and said success realizing those demands will take skilled negotiators.

"One of the things that Towny Anderson especially points out is that we need a negotiator at the table," said Hermacinski, who is a lawyer and owns a telecommunications-consulting firm. "I negotiate complex contracts every day. That's what I do."

Quinn's opponent in District 3, Councilwoman Karen Post, said the city has a unique advantage with this development.

"Annexation is the greatest tool a city has to make sure the people who are going to pay for the development will also pay for the impact on the city," Post said. "It's not that developers are bad, but people are going to want to make what they can make."

Safety first

District 2 candidate Paul Hughes said perfecting the annexation agreement "is going to take some artful discussions."

"You only get one chance to get it right," Hughes said. "I think the City Council has an obligation to get the very best deal it can from a developer, who, after all, needs to become part of the city to develop."

Hughes' opponent, Meg Bentley, could not be reached for this story. But at an Oct. 23 forum, Bentley expressed concern about the amount of mixed-use development already being allowed in the city and the effects it may have on existing and already struggling local businesses.

"Why should we add to that pressure by permitting too much competition too fast?" she said.

Vince Arroyo, a candidate for the two-year District 3 seat, said the annexation of Steamboat 700 raises a number of concerns, from traffic to meeting an increased level of public safety services.

"You don't have enough safety for those houses yet," he said.

Arroyo's opponent, Walter Magill, said he hasn't reviewed enough information to say what he specifically would hope to get out of an annexation agreement. He did note, however, that his background as a civil engineer gives him unique understanding of the infrastructure issues at hand.

Magill said he hopes that City Council's demands don't hold up the development indefinitely.

"I think that's a possibility," Magill said. "I think they could put the whole development on hold. It's going to take a series of meetings, but I don't think the annexation should take three years."

No fear

City Council President and District 1 candidate Susan Dellinger said the Steamboat 700 development and annexation present a number of strains on Steamboat's infrastructure, from schools to sewers. She said the method by which infrastructure improvements are funded would be the biggest question when looking at an annexation agreement, followed by how the development is zoned.

Dellinger's opponent, Scott Myller, said he is well suited to confront the challenges of annexation.

"I've been on both sides of the table as a (Steamboat Springs) planning commissioner and as an architect on the construction side," he said. "I think I understand the desires on the one hand and the limitations on the other."

Dellinger said the review and work she has already put in as a council member in anticipation of the annexation puts her in the better position to address the issue.

While their approaches differ, the candidates as a whole, like Mulcahy, believe the development and the annexation will go through.

"It's described in our area plan as the only place our community is going to grow," Myller said. "If that's true : we better not lose it."

Anderson said the annexation has to have either a neutral or a beneficial effect on the city. The key to achieving that, he said, is for both sides to be earnest and open in negotiating their mutual goals.

"You don't negotiate out of fear," Anderson said. "That's a terrible way to negotiate."

Quinn agreed that the attitude with which discussions are approached could make all the difference.

"In my opinion, we're going to get more in the end if we approach this from a cooperative spirit as opposed to an adversarial spirit," he said. "In my opinion, we're going to be in a better bargaining position if we work with them, not against them."

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

elk2 7 years, 1 month ago

Matt, really, what's the difference. Remember back in the 70's (you were still very young) Steamboat 11 went belly up. We bought a house in forclosure at that time for $40,000. With the present financial climate in this country who's to say it wouldn't happen again. We are certainly not immune to what goes on in the rest of the country. We are just a couple years behind.

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sonjamac 7 years, 1 month ago

I would encourage you to visit Karen Post's website and look over her answers to the questions posed by the Pilot, the Chamber and the Community Alliance. They give as much specificity on 700 as can be squeezed into a 100 word limit. Despite being appointed to Council well after the original 700 plan was revised, Karen has read both the original and revised copy and has some good ideas about implementing solutions that don't cause the burden of infrastructure and ongoing operations and maintenence to fall to the current taxpayer. Please visit her website and contact her to talk more. www.karenpost.info

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Scott Wedel 7 years, 1 month ago

This is pitiful. Not one candidate can state one specific condition or recommend priorities regarding the annexation.

How much of the development should be affordable units? Affordable via deed restrictions or via smaller houses on small lots? How much should be larger lots and luxury homes and how much typical suburban lots of 1/5 acre or so? Any apartments for worker housing? Are we adding a huge suburb or a utopian residential/commercial core where car use is minimized (bike/walk paths to local groceries and restaurants?) Are we willing to have fewer Parks and sports fields to get more affordable units?

So we want it not to cost the city money and we want it to address affordable housing and we don't want it to hurt existing businesses, but does anyone have an idea on what IT should be?

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Scott Wedel 7 years, 1 month ago

I just went to that website. A site full of platitudes and no specifics. As far as I can tell, she is intending to be a vibrant force dealing with issues, but nothing said about what she'd do about any of the issues.

And here is a candidate with her own website, but all she can say about any of the issues are links to other sites where her answers were limited to a hundred words? Excuse me, but she can use all the words she wants on her website and choses to use 0 words.

She is no worse or better than any of the other candidates, all of them are trying their best to avoid taking positions on the key issues.

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Steve Lewis 7 years, 1 month ago

Until today I had appreciated Mulcahy's stated willingness to work with this community in developing the west. And I appreciated that he had stayed out of our election. Today's comments that he could easily walk away "in a heartbeat", have the unfortunate appearance of attempting to intimidate our choice of his negotiating counterparts - our city council. I'm very disappointed. -Steve Lewis

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another_local 7 years, 1 month ago

I love the quote from Mulcahy about "contingencies". Let them walk if that is what they have in mind as a negotiating lever. We lose nothing by asking for a lot. Twenty 35 acre homesites is not the end of the world either if that is the other "fall back".

I would like to see a requirement for a lot of higher density, smaller units which are zoned NO NIGHTLY RENTAL. Increasing the supply of smaller homes and appartments (condos) which can not be rented out to vacationers is what will keep prices in check. I am talking about 1000 - 1500 square foot individual homes or sides of duplexes and apartments from 600 to 1200 square feet in buildings with 8 or fewer units.

Deed restrictions should not be implimented. In the end, they benefit no-one. Deed restricted housing tends to get run down since there is no incentive to improve or maintain it and in the long run financially hobbles the buyer compared to getting into unrestricted ownership.

Keep the disneyland features and amenities to a minimum so the association dues in a develoment are small, or better yet, just sell off the lots and let people build thier own rather than letting the developer have a lock on the building contracts and don't have an association at all!

Require tap fees and permiting fees sufficient to cover the costs of adding the new homes to the system.

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Steve Lewis 7 years, 1 month ago

There is a blueprint in place for the west, and a lot of work went into it. Its the West SS Area Plan Update, finalized a year ago. Its predecessor, the original WSSAP had a lot of detail along the lines of the specifics mentioned above. The Update deleted a layer or two of specifics at the request of the previous owner, Mary Brown. The idea was to allow the developer more flexibility. Mulcahy bought the land with this plan in place. He said he was comfortable with it then. What's changed? -Steve Lewis

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sonjamac 7 years, 1 month ago

Scott, apparently you did not look at Karen's "Issues" page on her website before you wrote... "And here is a candidate with her own website, but all she can say about any of the issues are links to other sites where her answers were limited to a hundred words? Excuse me, but she can use all the words she wants on her website and choses to use 0 words." I did a word count on her Issues page and there are 513. Wanna retract your incorrect statement ;-) By the way, have you checked out the other candidates websites?

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Scott Wedel 7 years, 1 month ago

Sonjamac, Karen Post's Issues page states that she is for generic platitudes such as pioneers, natural resources, communications and affordable housing. The closest she comes to supporting a specific issue is to say she likes the Yampa River Core trail.

Once again, not ONE WORD about the 700 annexation on her website.

This election I am voting against all incumbents with the hope that turnover will lead to at least a few months of inaction instead of more rushed bad decisions.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 1 month ago

Let him walk...so he can reap the benefits of selling off 35acre parcels at an even higher rate. And of course, higher rates never cause foreclosures, correct?

Developers don't cause foreclosures; people buying a house at an exhorbitant rate with a huge mortgage they can't afford, praying it increases in value to sell the house for a quick buck and finding out the market has slowed causes foreclosures.

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elk2 7 years, 1 month ago

I can't stop thinking that Mulcahy was some big time developer in Las Vegas. Wasn't Vegas overbuilt by greedy development and now has a huge rate of forclosures. I'd like to know how he developed in the past and his record of working with the community. I'd like to know what his neighbors in Nevada thought of him. If we don't kiss his a_ _ he will walk. I say let him walk!!!! Has anyone in city government done a check on him???

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 1 month ago

That's true, elk2, but it's the buyer who has the choice to buy a property or not. It's the exact same thing as gambling in Las Vegas or playing the stock market.

Since the 700 is "supposedly" in line with mid-range prices for the area, I'd bet that most of these will be families moving in; not 2nd home owners. This can also add to our ever-dwindling workforce. A 35acre ranchette most likely won't add to the workforce.

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