Steamboat Springs At a Saturday morning retreat with city department heads, the Steamboat Springs City Council rearticulated the issues at the top of its priority list.
Five particular priorities were identified: implementing the city's West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, economic sustainability, livability, the city's own financial sustainability and maintaining public infrastructure.
One of the first questions asked by City Council President Loui Antonucci pertained to the proposed Steamboat 700 development west of city limits.
"Is annexation a goal," Antonucci asked, "or is that just something we know we're going to have to deal with?"
"I really think it's going to keep Steamboat common," Councilman Scott Myller said. "I think it's a good thing, and I want it to get done."
Others were less committed and said they only want to effect the annexation if it is done correctly.
"I do think Steamboat should grow," Councilman Jon Quinn said. "I'm less convinced that it has to be Steamboat 700 in particular."
The council ultimately settled on implementation of the WSSAP, not annexation of Steamboat 700, as its priority. The WSSAP is the city's guide to growth in the west Steamboat area. It calls for dense, walkable development that reduces the need for off-site automobile trips and boosts the city's housing stock, including affordable housing.
The plan also calls for the impacts of development in the plan area to be mitigated. Officials have previously said that means Steamboat 700 should at least be revenue-neutral, but Planning Director Tom Leeson presented a broader view Saturday for reviewing the development.
"There's value to other things besides cash flow," said Leeson, citing public benefits such as open space. "It's going to be very difficult to quantify some of that value."
If the city strictly requires Steamboat 700 to be revenue-neutral from a cash standpoint, Leeson said, "I think it's going to be very hard for them."
City Attorney Tony Lettunich noted that the words "revenue neutral" do not appear in the WSSAP, which says impacts should be minimized and benefits should be equal to or greater than negative impacts.
"That's going to take a lot of time to figure out," Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said, "and a lot of that is just your gut feeling and value judgment."
A push for the creation of a long-term vision for the city colored many remarks Saturday. Leeson noted that retiring baby boomers are currently driving Steamboat's economy. He said that when this group dies, there isn't a generation of the same size following on its footsteps to fill its homes.
"We don't know what the ski area is going to look like in 20 years," Leeson continued. "People may not be coming to ski any more. If we're a sustainable community, they're coming here to live and have jobs. : We have to plan for the economy 20 years from today, not the economy today."
Council members were encouraged to approach each of their priorities with this 20-year mindset. One of those priorities, under the heading of maintaining public infrastructure, is the ever-tightening traffic situation in Steamboat. Comments favored an approach that encourages alternative modes of transportation rather than adding lanes or a bypass around the city.
"I'm absolutely committed not to add more lanes because they will just fill up," said Myller, who said he had just returned form Atlanta, where a massive amount of traffic lines didn't appear to solve anything.
"That's why I've continually said you cannot pave your way out of this problem," added Leeson. "All across the country it has shown it doesn't solve the problem."
Council will go to work immediately on two of the priorities it identified: economic sustainability and the city's own financial sustainability. At their meeting Tuesday, discussion of a regional economic strategy will be on the agenda for the council's joint meeting with the Routt County Board of Commissioners. Later that night, Finance Director Lisa Rolan will present a budget process overview to council.