Hermacinski pushes 700 vote; other council members disagree


Steamboat 700 by the numbers

Total size: 508 acres

Open space and parks: 147 acres

Development area: 361 acres

Start of infrastructure construction: 2010

Start of homebuilding: 2011

Build-out: 20 years

Housing units: 2,044*

Commercial uses: 340,000 square feet*

Community housing units: 511**

Real estate transfer fee: 1 percent***

* Under a large-format retail alternative land-use plan, the number of housing units would be reduced to 1,818 and one of three mixed-use "village centers" would be replaced with a 348,000-square-foot retail center with space for two large-format retailers and a grocery store.

** Number includes a mix of for-sale and rental housing options for households earning between 70 percent and 160 percent of the area median income.

*** Initial sales and community housing units excluded. The transfer fee would be dedicated to community enhancements and housing affordability, and a specified amount would be earmarked to provide a permanent funding source for the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.

Source: Steamboat 700

— The controversial annexation of Steamboat 700 would be put to a citywide vote under a proposal Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski plans to suggest next week.

Hermacinski confirmed Monday that she plans to broach the subject near the end of the April 7 City Council meeting. If a majority of the seven-member council agrees, a discussion about putting Steamboat 700 on the ballot could be added to an upcoming City Council agenda.

Hermacinski said she is leaning toward support of a public vote for reasons including conflicts between the city's Home Rule Charter and state statute, which could result in a legal battle if citizens were to petition for a referendum election of an approved annexation. She also noted the magnitude of the 508-acre, 2,000-home application west of city limits.

"I think when you have decisions of overwhelming magnitude, putting it to the community is a valid option," Hermacinski said Monday. "It's an undoable thing, essentially. : I don't know if it's just the job of council members to make that decision. : I was elected for two years, not to bind the community for the next 40."

Other council members disagree, thinking a decision on the annexation is their responsibility and that a vote would improperly delay the development review process.

"I don't think it's a good idea," Councilman Jon Quinn said Monday, noting that the city's pre-annexation agreement with Steamboat 700 calls for a decision about the annexation this summer. "You're probably delaying a process that's already been going on for a really long time. : I think that there's an elected body for a reason."

Steamboat 700 Principal and Project Manager Danny Mulcahy strongly opposes a vote.

The 1995 Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan "was the first to direct future growth to west Steamboat; to protect the valley from sprawl, provide work force housing, and to preserve the character of Steamboat Springs," Mulcahy wrote in an e-mail Tuesday. "At every step since then, and at countless public meetings and public hearings including the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan update in 2006, the citizens of Steamboat Springs have reinforced their support of that vision, and our elected officials have voted unanimously to implement the plan.

"So we believe that our plan fulfills the vision that the community has said again and again that it wants," Mulcahy continued.

Last year, Mulcahy said he thought he would win a referendum election "hands down," but that the added time and cost would mean higher prices for Steamboat 700 homes, thus defeating the city's No. 1 goal in the WSSAP: affordable housing.

Also last year, City Council President Loui Antonucci agreed with Mulcahy that the community already has weighed in through the area plans.

"Collectively, the community thought west Steamboat was the place to grow," Antonucci said. "I wouldn't want to go through (a vote) unless someone went out and got the signatures."

Councilman Steve Ivancie said Monday that he probably will support scheduling the discussion because of the number of city residents who have expressed interest in a vote on the development.

"I think there's a lot of merit to discussing that," Ivancie said. "This is such a big, enormous undertaking that I think we need to have that conversation."

Laws conflict

The city's 1973 Home Rule Charter states, "Referendum petitions must be signed by qualified electors of the city equal in number to at least (20 percent) of the total number of electors registered to vote at the last regular municipal election." The state Constitution, however, states, "Not more than (10) percent of the registered electors may be required to order the referendum."

City Attorney Tony Lettunich said Steamboat is unique in requiring such a high percentage of voters for a referendum petition, and that it is an untested question whether the Home Rule Charter or state statute should apply. By voluntarily putting Steamboat 700 to a vote, Hermacinski thinks the city can head off the potential for long and costly legal proceedings that would leave everyone, including the developers, in limbo.

"Presumably, whoever is on the wrong side of this would want to litigate," Lettunich said.

Lettunich also confirmed that the city could not "play it safe" and simply go with the lower percentage in the state statute because it has an obligation to defend its Home Rule Charter.

Under an election scenario, Hermacinski said it would be the City Council's job to negotiate the best annexation agreement possible. Then, she said, council could either vote to approve the project with a condition that voters also must approve the annexation agreement, or leave the decision entirely up to citizens.

Last year, Minturn residents resoundingly upheld their Town Council's decision to annex a planned 4,300-acre ski and golf resort on Battle Mountain in a referendum election. Vail Daily reported that, out of 11 ballot questions, an average of 87 percent of voters chose to annex the property.


housepoor 8 years ago

With home values on a sharpe decline what existing homeowner will vote for this? Definitely not anyone in Stmbt II, Silverview or Heritage Park.


trump_suit 8 years ago

Some of those are not even part of Steamboat proper house. They do not get a vote regardless.


Fred Duckels 8 years ago

If Cari's concerns are valid, we should have adressed this problem way back when. If the developer knew that an election was forthcoming, that would have influenced all previous undertakings. Why are we just now discovering this potential problem?


Steve Lewis 8 years ago

The City has seen its financial abilities narrow significantly. The cost impacts of the annexation should be in even bolder print. When will we see those critical numbers?

The new higher densities west of 13th St., of Brandon's earlier article, mean higher cost numbers (water, infrastructure, highway lanes, services:.) for the City, yet more financial capability for the developer because he has more units to sell. The developer will argue the higher density allows him to bring his selling prices down for the unit buyers.

But at the same time the higher densities allow the developer to sell whole parcels to other big developers at higher prices.

Opposites. In my opinion, the higher density rationale is not reliable. All we know is that the developer will maximize profit. The City should fend for itself on costs, and structure the annexation against speculative flipping, and for a large degree of permanent local ownership.

Simply "Flooding the market" is not going to accomplish local ownership. That's fool's gold, because the national buyer pool is so much more capable than our local buyer pool. That effect will be exaggerated ahead, because in this national market, the first real estate markets to rebound will attract a lot of national money looking to re-invest.


Scott Wedel 8 years ago

The SB housing market is not dependent upon the SB job market. This is a resort town. Many of the homes will be vacation homes. Of the occupied homes, many will be those whose income is not from a local job. They will be semi retired or consultants or such than can work anywhere and chose to live in SB. And others will be owned by local business owners.

This project will not be workforce housing for local services businesses.

Construction will be over a 25 year period so there is time to figure out traffic projects.


Scott Ford 8 years ago

Fred & Steve You guys have some historical context when it comes to having a public vote on issues that are typically delegated to City Council as our elected representatives. If I recall correctly as a community we voted on the Wal-Mart question. The Wal-Mart issue had become so contentious that having it go to a public vote resolved it. Not everyone was happy with the outcome of the vote but the feeling was the voice of the local residents had been heard. I do not think we need to vote on everything, and we do not. But some things are so important we should consider it. Why was there a vote on Wal-Mart? Council could have just approved the development permit for Wal-Mart but I think City Council had an appreciation for its significance.

I can appreciate Project Manager Danny Mulcahy's frustration. Other than the developer(s) having yet another surprise in a long series of surprises what is the downside of having the public vote on the terms of the annexation? This approach does not seem to conflict with the WSSAP. It is not a question of where development should take place it is a question of how. Having the City negotiate the very best terms it can with the developer and than putting it to a vote seems like a reasonable approach with something this important. I could be missing something in the greater scheme of things so this is why I am looking to be educated and I think a lot of others are too.


Barb Tuchlinsky 8 years ago

A proposed developement the size of 700 should be put to a vote. Yes, it will inconvenience the developers but if the majority of our residents feel that Steamboat does not see a need for this ammount of housing and the impacts that it will create for all of us i.e increased traffic, then it should not be built. We will all have to live with the impacts of such a developement and it would be easier to accept if it goes to a vote first. I was not in favor a Walmart but since the majority of residents wanted it, I was more willing to accept it. The inconveniece to the town, if 700 gets built, goes far beyond the inconvenience of waiting for a vote to the developer.


Fred Duckels 8 years ago

If we were requiring a vote we should have started with that premise. The developer has spent millions and now we are moving the goal posts. I think this would merit a fat lawsuit, but the they might take the Iron Horse if we are lucky. The developers would'nt risk anything if the outcome rested on a vote.


Scott Wedel 8 years ago

If the excuse for the City council putting it to a vote is because it is not clear if a petition needs 10% or 20% of the registered voters then change the city charter to match state law. And then it would be clear how many signatures would be needed by the opponents to put the project on the ballot.

The real estate market is so dead that it is hard to see how a delay to hold a vote could affect the development.

Though, once the City Council agrees that there will be a vote then their bargaining position is greatly weakened because it becomes far harder for them to turn down the proposal as compared to letting the voters decide. That allows members of the City Council to say "I would not vote to approve it, but I will put it on the ballot to let the public decide". And where the economy is likely to be (resort areas get hit by downturns harder than the rest of the economy) then the proposal will probably become an argument over jobs as compared to design elements.


Steve Lewis 8 years ago

I'm not ready to support a ballot question on this. We don't know enough. June and July are big "shape up" months for the annexation.

There are a lot of problems even when the details are out. They all rhyme with "oversimplifying a complex decision". 98% of the voters will look at 10% of the information and make a gut vote. Wal-Mart was easy. This would be grossly oversimplified.

Scott W makes a good point on lost CC leverage. The project could change shape for the ballot question to attract votes and shed costs.

I still think CC will shape a better end package than a ballot question can. I may change my mind when I see the cost details and the attainable housing provisions.

Their CHP (housing plan) AMI, at 95% average, is already 15% higher than the WSSAP called for. Our workforce needs are at 80% or lower. 100-120% AMI is proving too close to free market and will not help many out west, in my opinion.


smart65 8 years ago

We,the people,have wanted the right to vote from day one,but were told we could not. Get with it CC,give us back our rights.


Wayne Eller 8 years ago

Proposal = 2000----2500 new houses proposed for West Steamboat. O K, we get these homes built and occupied. Now where are the occupants going to work? We do not have nor do we want or need industry in our town. How are they going to pay their bills? If they do get a job, where is the by-pass going to be so they/we can get through town? As I have said many times to many people---WE ARE BUILDING OURSELVES INTO A DISASTER!!!!


1999 8 years ago

i agree with justice.

but I guess they could work at the big box store...right?


Brian Bavosi 8 years ago

The Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan dictates the West of Steamboat Growth. The Area Community Plan was developed through a series of meetings that involved the public as well as stake holders west of town. It is very clear that the plan and the community "directs urban development to be within the Urban Growth Boundary- within and adjacent to the city. The West of Steamboat Springs area plan will be the major new neighborhood growth area".

I do not understand how the agency reviews can ignore the past work of the community and the overall support for the development west of town. A land owner reviews the various plans and policies to draw logical conclusions of what will be acceptable development on his/her property. The 700 group is only following the plans and policies instituted by the community through various public worksessions and hearings. To throw all of that work away and say, we're not really sure what should be done out there, oh my, there may be traffic, we don't know what to do!!!

If we need a vote to decide a development goal already established in a variety of plans then I would say the elected officials are not doing their job by implementing the policies and goals of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan and they are setting a standard that the plan holds no water and should be thrown out or updated again.

Another example of a lack of leadership and decision making from the city.


flotilla 8 years ago

How many vacation home owners live in Silver spur, steamboat II? None. bs that vacationers want to live in the boondocks. they want to live next to the mountain. and there is plenty for sale now for them.

I agree with Justice. Bring it to a vote.


Duke_bets 8 years ago

Brian and Fred have it spot on. The city officials were elected by a public vote, so a public vote on this topic would be questioning the authority that has already been granted. Also, changing the rules in the 4th quarter should not be tolerated. The public will most likely vote against this.............That simple fact should have been thought of long ago. The city would stand to lose a lot of cash in the court system. Isn't Hermacinski a lawyer?


mavis 8 years ago

Scott- don't you think with the current traffic conditions that is exactly what they said abut traffic 25 years ago? THat is exactly that is the kind of thinking that has led to the current problem- I even remember people talking about this when I was 16 which was 16 years ago-- Traffic "plans" need to be executed and dealt with now. Or welcome to Estes where you drive in and are stuck


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