Steamboat Springs Loui Antonucci was named president of the new Steamboat Springs City Council, and Cari Hermacinski its president pro-tem, during a Tuesday night meeting that saw newly elected council members make their mark in Centennial Hall.
Antonucci's unanimous election proved to be an exception in a meeting that, while scheduled to be largely ceremonial, included two 4-3 votes on controversial topics not on the meeting's agenda: historic preservation and the former City Council's decision to revoke the liquor license of Jade Summit and Pirate's Pub owner Kevin Nerney.
The council's five new members were anything but timid in their first meeting.
New Councilman Scott Myller nominated Hermacinski for the position of president pro-tem, the council's second in command. The council's previous president pro-tem, Steve Ivancie, was also nominated for the position, but Myller said it would be appropriate for a new member to take on that role.
"I think we got the community excited about big change," Myller said.
Myller, Hermacinski, and new councilmen Jon Quinn and Walter Magill voted for Hermacinski as pro-tem, while Antonucci, Ivancie and new councilwoman Meg Bentley voted in vain for Ivancie.
Hermacinski moved quickly Tuesday to overturn work of the previous City Council, requesting that City Attorney Tony Lettunich draft an ordinance repealing a moratorium adopted in September that bans the demolition of structures deemed historic. A citizen committee has been formed to re-evaluate the city's current historic preservation ordinance, which has sparked widespread public debate.
While opposing the moratorium, Hermacinski expressed support for the committee's work.
"I just don't want that to happen under the auspices of a moratorium," she said.
No one who voted in favor of the moratorium remains on City Council.
Councilwoman Meg Bentley, who won a District 2 seat last week, said repealing the moratorium would undermine the work of the committee, which meets for the first time tonight.
"I think it's a vote of no confidence to remove that moratorium right now," Bentley said.
Magill, Antonucci and Quinn joined Hermacinski in support of her motion, while Ivancie, Bentley and Myller opposed it. The first reading of the moratorium's repeal is scheduled for next week.
In another 4-3 decision, the City Council decided to convene as the Steamboat Springs Liquor License Authority on Dec. 5 to consider staying the revocation of Nerney's liquor license. Nerney lost his liquor license Thursday after a quasi-judicial Liquor License Authority hearing held by the previous City Council.
Nerney was found not guilty of unlawful sexual contact in Routt County Court in August. The court case stemmed from an alleged incident that occurred in February at his bar in Ski Time Square. City officials held the administrative hearings to determine whether Nerney violated the state's liquor code of conduct. Using a less-rigorous standard of proof than required in a criminal proceeding, members of the previous City Council voted, 5-0, that a violation occurred, and 3-2 to revoke Nerney's license.
Steamboat attorney Kris Hammond, Nerney's lawyer, asked Tuesday that the revocation be delayed while an appeal is made to District Court, and while Nerney's wife applies for a liquor license of her own for the establishment.
Magill, Quinn, Antonucci and Ivancie voted to consider the stay, while Hermacinski, Bentley and Myller opposed it. Hermacinski, who has said she does not believe the City Council should continue functioning as the city's liquor board, was concerned about liability issues.
"It's a bad decision for our council to make," she said. "I don't know what's to be gained by meddling in it at this point."
Conflicts for Quinn
In other action, the City Council voted unanimously to remand plans for the Edgemont development at the base of Steamboat Ski Area back to the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission, which did not support the Edgemont proposal last month. Edgemont plans have undergone significant revisions since that denial.
Council members asked Quinn to step down from the discussion after he disclosed a business relationship with Edgemont developers The Atira Group. Quinn, owner of Northwest Data Services, provides telephone and other technical services for Atira offices on Oak Street.
The council members' decision - if similarly applied to future situations - could presage limited influence for Quinn, who said Monday, "I work for half of Steamboat."
Quinn said Monday that he did not believe his business relationships with Atira and others would color his judgment on Tuesday's item or future ones.
"I wouldn't have run for the position if I didn't think I could be an unbiased party," he said. "It's a small town, and we're all kind of tied in together. : What I will do is always disclose that I have a business relation with Atira and others."
Hermacinski and Myller, both members of the Planning Commission before their election to City Council, disclosed that they had already considered Edgemont's application on the Planning Commission. Planning Director Tom Leeson said Monday that he believes the two should step down, but Hermacinski and Myller's fellow council members did not ask them to do so. Lettunich said at Tuesday's meeting that he did not believe there was a conflict of interest.
In other council action, Magill directed city staff to explore options for tele- or Web-casting future City Council meetings; provide a business plan for the Iron Horse Inn, recently purchased by the city for the purpose of providing employee housing; and provide an update on the status of the city's planned departure from the Routt County Regional Building Department.
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