Wednesday, March 19, 2008
In the Steamboat Today article dated March 12 and titled "City seeks 700 team," the question was asked of council, "Do members want to proceed with the annexation?" The answer was a unanimous "yes."
This could merely mean that the process leading up to annexation should be completed. Fair enough - any applicant is entitled to that.
But it also could be a strong clue that council has made up its collective mind to approve, or that at least a majority has.
This possibility brings up the interesting question of conflict of interest. At least five members have personal motives in seeing the 700 LLC (and other growth) proceed unchecked. These interests are basically real estate-oriented: property sales, development, construction management, contracting of all kinds, architecture, drafting and all sorts of ancillary activities. One could spend a whole career just working on the 20-plus-year 700 speculation. And just think of all the properties added to Realtors' and lenders' inventories.
Another clue to the mindset of council is the responses that some of the candidates gave prior to last fall's election. One was unequivocal in support; others ambiguous or noncommittal.
I have had no response whatsoever from any council member on my urging to voluntarily put the 700 LLC annexation to a public vote. There has been no event of this magnitude since the annexation of the massive mountain area.
A plebiscite would achieve several things:
- Allay suspicion of conflict of interest
- Find out if the constituency really wants uncontained growth
- Let local democracy work, for a change
I know that we have one supporter on council who will be in favor of a plebiscite. I made an abortive run for council in 2001, and remember a campaign ad by Loui Antonucci that all important public issues should be voted on by the people. There will probably never again be an issue so important in our future as getting a handle on the rampant growth that is taking place. Being a man of honor and of his word, I am sure Mr. Antonucci will back a public vote.
In the unlikely event that council will voluntarily allow a public vote, I have made a few inquiries into circulating a petition to invoke the initiative or referendum process to get the inevitable 700 LLC annexation on the ballot. A November election, perhaps in 2009, might be timely and not cost extra. I have made overtures to the Community Alliance, which would have enough members to pull it off, if so inclined.
Ten or so years ago, a questionnaire on growth revealed that 80 percent of respondents favored some degree of growth control. I have a queasy feeling that this might have changed with the probable replacement of tourism by real estate development and sales as the prevailing economic engine in our area. This dynamic is acknowledged to have already happened in the Aspen-Snowmass area.
The West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan now is 13 years old and outdated. Development and traffic gridlock have grown and grown in those 13 years. Like the meadow mouse whose planned home was plowed under, the best-laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley. So it is with the WSSAP.
Elected officials and other supporters of WSSAP and the 700 LLC lean heavily on "affordable" housing to justify the speculation. Nevermind that such housing is a serious growth promoter and there is no end of future demand for more and more.
I am disappointed that hardly anyone else is speaking out publicly through the press on the growth issue. Does everyone in the community worship the holy grail of growth and "prosperity"?
Perhaps if we had Sound Off (unsigned opinions) back, people would not be so reluctant about offending their bosses, coworkers, friends, etc. How about reinstating Sound Off, Mr. Editor?