The race for a District 1 seat on the Steamboat Springs City Council is focusing on which candidate is better suited to manage widespread growth in Steamboat Springs.
Steamboat Springs Planning Commissioner Scott Myller, who is challenging Steamboat Springs City Council President Susan Dellinger, has been an open critic of the current council, questioning decisions including council's adoption of an affordable housing ordinance in June.
At an Oct. 10 forum, Myller, an architect, said the city needs to be more trusting of private developers, including those who propose to build more than 2,000 new homes in an area west of the city that likely will be incorporated into city limits, or annexed.
"How much are we going to entangle this person who wants to meet our needs?" Myller asked, noting that city plans have identified the west of Steamboat area as a location for growth. "Now, there's someone here who wants to do it. Let's let them do it."
Seizing on such comments, Dellinger has cast herself as the candidate who will better represent the interests of the community in negotiations with developers.
"There is nothing more important than to have a community voice at the table," Dellinger said at an Oct. 15 forum.
Dellinger said if re-elected, she hopes to focus on planning for Steamboat's economic future and growth.
"I'm looking forward to the economic sustainability" study, to be finalized in December, she said. "I want us to really review our plans and our Community Development Code, and make sure that what we think is coming on an economic level is what we're planning for."
Myller stressed the need for greater input from council-appointed groups, such as the Planning Commission on which he has served for six years.
"A lot of the decisions this council has made have been without Planning Commission input and insight, and I really don't like what they've done," he said. "The first was linkage and inclusionary zoning, the second was firing the (Routt County Regional) Building Department, and third was the moratorium on old houses downtown. : I'm especially down on linkage, because I think it's already hard enough to run a business here. That's just going to be a huge burden - I think it will discourage our economy from finding new ways to survive."
Linkage fees compensate the city for housing needs created by development, and are part of the city's affordable housing ordinance.
Access an issue
Both candidates hope to make local government more accessible to the public - and change inefficient procedures such as council meetings that extend late into the night.
Dellinger, 47, is well familiar with such meetings. She has served as City Council president since January. Before that, she served as the City Council's president pro-tem since November 2005.
Reflecting on that service, Dellinger said City Council needs to streamline its meetings, potentially by less micro-managing and an increased focus on larger issues.
"I really want us to look at how we do business as a government - how we can improve the process and continue improvements we've already started, so that council is talking at a policy level, not a driveway- or culvert-level," Dellinger said. "I want the process to work so well that it's a legacy that can be left for any council, and so that the public has input."
Myller also cited a need for more public comment.
"I'd like to see council be more citizen-run. Right now, I feel that our council tends to be professional politicians - they should rely on their staff more and trust their boards and worker groups, and do what they say," Myller said. "I'd like also to see meetings be shorter, more to the point, and more friendly for the public who decide to show up. That would alleviate people waiting until 11:30 (p.m.) and then giving up and leaving, while the council passes important ordinances after the public has left."
Myller, a mountain biker and Nordic ski racer, said he also is running for City Council because of his love for Steamboat.
"I'm not looking for power or authority or anything like that," he said. "I want to give back to the community."
Dellinger, a former GIS coordinator for the city and an avid photographer, softball player and artist, said she wants to bring more of the community into policy conversations.
"I want to make sure that we have a fair forum, no matter who is speaking from the public. I think we can continue to improve that," Dellinger said. "I want the public to be able to come in and speak comfortably - it's such an intimidating environment (in Centennial Hall). The goal is to hear what people have to say."
Brandon Gee contributed to this article.
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