Our View: No place for seller's remorse

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Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008

  • Bryna Larsen, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Eric Morris, community representative
  • Paul Draper, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— The three-part "City Limits" series, which concluded in Sunday's Steamboat Pilot & Today and explored annexations in Minturn, Durango, Granby and Hayden, provided valuable insight for local officials and developers working on the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation just west of Steamboat Springs.

In many ways, the series showed that we are a fortunate community. Steamboat city officials are not depending on annexation as a means to build revenue and keep the community alive, as is the case in Granby - which has annexed 7,000 acres in less than a decade - and Minturn, where residents will vote May 20 on a 5,300-acre, private ski and golf resort on Battle Mountain.

John Eastman, Steamboat's planning services manager, said our financially healthy city is looking simply for a revenue-neutral development in Steamboat 700.

Another advantage for Steamboat is the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, adopted in 1999 and updated in 2006 to guide future development from the western boundary of Steamboat II to city limits near the Sleepy Bear Mobile Home Park. The document is a fixture in plans from Steamboat 700 Project Manager Danny Mulcahy, who often refers to the annexation as "an update" of the WSSAP.

Durango had no such plan in place when approached with plans for the 681-acre Three Springs annexation. The city required developers led by Tim Zink to create and fund a master plan for the annexed parcel, resulting in a somewhat reactionary process that city planners said was spurred by political pressure from Durango's City Council.

"In retrospect, I would have liked to lengthen the (annexation) process out further," said Greg Hoch, Durango's planning director. "If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would."

"City Limits" also shed light on potential unique benefits of annexation.

Former Granby Mayor Ted Wang, for example, said real estate transfer assessments have helped Granby correct its economic shortcomings. After initial real estate sales on an annexation site, transfer assessments funnel a cut of future sales to the municipality.

Mulcahy has touted such assessments as a way to fund affordable housing in Steamboat 700. Such assessments are a legal deal that can only be struck with a new annexation if not offered voluntarily by developers.

We are not advocating or opposing transfer assessments. But city officials would be remiss to ignore annexation lessons learned across the Western Slope. Failure to assess all potential advantages from annexation can lead to the unease - seller's remorse, so to speak - expressed by city and town officials in "City Limits."

Steamboat 700 has the potential to be an economic asset to Steamboat, bringing the city positive, rather than neutral, returns. The annexation also can significantly help meet our community's need for affordable housing.

But, as Hoch knows, you only get one shot at the deal. Let's get it right.

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