Steamboat Springs The city is negotiating a pre-annexation agreement with Steamboat 700 LLC. On May 6, Steamboat's citizens can comment on the city's pressing needs they want the pre-annexation to address.
Not a development review, annexation is a negotiation about which the City Council has complete discretion. If the pre-annexation agreement does not meet the city's needs - if the benefits to the city do not substantially outweigh the costs, as required by the Community Development Code - then, there is no reason to approve the annexation petition.
Given the Steamboat 700 discussions to date and the Pilot's excellent three-part series on annexation, we think these ideas, in addition to ideas already advanced by city staff but not included here, belong in the pre-annexation agreement.
First, to minimize traffic, trips to/through downtown and adhere to the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan and the Community Housing Plan, Steamboat 700 should:
- Donate land for a grocery store, a post office, child care facility and a school.
- Construct a school to accommodate the anticipated proportional increase in school age students who live in Steamboat 700.
- Require small-lot zoning and deed-restricted units integrated into neighborhoods, not built off to the side.
- Require full-time residency in neighborhoods, thus reaching the city's goal of 33 percent affordable housing units in West Steamboat.
- Include a capital gains assessment that declines during the first five years to discourage speculation and flipping, thus moderating housing cost appreciation for buyers with incomes between 120 percent and 200 percent of the area median income.
- Dedicate the capital gains assessment (or Real Estate Transfer Assessment RETA) to mitigate areas of the city that are affected adversely by the annexation as identified in the independent studies.
- Compose the organizational body that administers RETA revenue with representatives of all neighborhoods within the new city limits.
- Provide a percentage of residential lots to Habitat for Humanity.
- Include a "luxury" assessment on houses that exceed a certain square footage.
- Require all large residential single family dwellings and commercial construction to meet a specified green standard.
- Require landscaping, such as xeriscaping, to conserve fresh water and minimize its consumption for all new residential construction.
- Require an endowment fund to expand water and sewer capacity.
Second, to amend the Urban Growth Boundary, consistent with city resolution 2006-15 and in collaboration with Routt County, the city should first:
- Annex the 500 or so acres within the Urban Growth Boundary and test assumptions on pressure to grow, on trip reductions and on transit expansion.
- Amend the Urban Growth Boundary if - and only if - explicit assumptions hold, and annexation of the additional 200 acres will yield exceptional benefit, as required, to current residents.
Of course, annexation for development should pay for itself. The city should assure current residents they will not experience diminishing levels of service or pay for additional infrastructure, e.g. a fire station and engine, or fire and law enforcement services triggered by annexation.
Annexation should fulfill unmet needs of the city and mitigate the needs that it will create. In Durango, the Three Springs development dedicated land for "city parks and two schools, fire and police stations, a child care center and affordable housing."
In Minturn, the Battle Mountain Resort "will also bring streets, streetscapes, an $8.5 million recreation center, trails, a scholarship fund for locals, $22 million to acquire land, parking lots, employee housing, local use of the private resort, wildlife mitigation and the final cleanup of an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site created by acid mine leakage from an abandoned mine on Ginn's property. : All in all, Ginn will provide $180 million for town improvements."
One hundred eighty million dollars! All financial and infrastructure negotiations preceed the final pre-annexation agreement and, thus, determine the extent to which public benefits are "extraordinary" or "overwhelming." Annexation can be a positive step forward for Steamboat Springs. Let's not blow it.
White is president of the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley; Aigner is the Community Alliance's organizer.