John Whittum: Smart growth


— The controversy about the Community Alliance recently ignited by the July 24 Steamboat Today article and its selectively chosen comments made in Iowa by Steve Aigner prompt me to respond. Neither the image of the Alliance as presented by the reporter nor Aigner's statements quoted truly represent our organization.

I visited the Yampa Valley in the 1950s and became a full-time resident in 1963. In the 46 years since, I have observed the random and unplanned growth this city and this county have experienced, and I am convinced that if such development had been managed in the public interest, it would have led to much better city planning and financial stability. Consequently, in 2000, I became a founding member of the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley.

Steamboat Springs government allows for any and all to address concerns associated with our explosive development. Yet, having attended many City Council meetings, I find that, very much like what takes place in our national government, those with prospects for near-term personal gain have the loudest voice.

But who speaks for the longer-term public interest? Very few voices are heard in that regard, and most of them recently have come from the Community Alliance. It was, in fact, our group, with Steve Aigner leading, that stood up to the plate last fall when the City Council was on the verge of forgiving developers certain fees they owed the city for the last three years. All but one of those who spoke were members of the Alliance. None of the developers spoke in favor of saving the city money. The Council, embarrassed to be giving away almost $5 million at a time when the recession first was impacting us, finally voted to collect the money - a reversal of their vote the week before.

Our national government has seen the rise of similarly minded public interest groups that attempt to provide a forum for common citizens' concerns to counter - often in vain - the formidable forces of the special interests and their highly paid lobbyists and lawyers. It was Ralph Nader, the founder of Public Citizen, who so embarrassed the automobile industry that Congress voted to make seatbelts a requirement. Nader was, of course, vilified and persecuted by the industry.

Nader also sometimes made comments that were at odds with the mission of his organization. I certainly have done the same; yet in no way would I like to see such comments selectively positioned to represent my views or those of the Alliance.

In the case of the upcoming annexation proposals, like many members of the Alliance, I have not yet made up my mind as to the viability of Steamboat 700 under the conditions thus far proposed. Steamboat 700 is a form of managed development, and the Alliance is all for planned and managed growth. The final test, however, will be to determine whether the public benefit will significantly outweigh the public costs. At present, it seems that the public costs in terms of water supply, traffic congestion, minimal affordable housing and revenue outlays will be substantial. We believe the public's interest should be in smart growth, not just growth for the sake of growth.

John Whittum

Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley


Steve Lewis 7 years, 8 months ago

Judging by the Pilot column inches on the messenger lately vs. the Pilot column inches on the message, it is now open to debate whose interests the Pilot publisher is representing.

It disturbs me, of course, the Pilot's great interest in inspecting the messenger, Steve Aigner. I now question the arrangement of recent articles, given the first one was a significant undermining of this messenger. I regret a private list is now public. And I don't like the list. But Steve Aigner now deserves better than he's been getting.

The Pilot inspected and reported at length on an Aigner presentation to a classroom in Iowa. Front page news. Will the Pilot similarly inspect the items on this very local list? Given that Aigner appears to be correct on some of the complaints he presented to Tony Connell, I expect a journalist's answer would be, "Yes, I have work to do".


Scott Wedel 7 years, 8 months ago

What complaints made to Connell by Aigner were correct? Details please. Here is a chance to start redeeming Aigner. That article included a cursory investigation of all allegations made by Aigner and found them to be false.


Fred Duckels 7 years, 8 months ago

We have rules and regulations to govern development in the valley. It is only fair to approve projects meeting the standards that we have set forth. To get smart growth, by whose standards? it opens the door to activists making up the rules as we go along. CA seeems to assume that their standards should prevail, and have pursued that agenda by shutting off other views and "working" the system" to their advantage. CA does not seem to represent the community as a whole and it seems that a shoving match may be the only solution. It would be nice if CA could find a way to work more as a part of, instead of assuming the elitist role. They were attracted here because the locals treated them fairly, and now it is time to return the favor.


Fred Duckels 7 years, 8 months ago

We have had entirely too much growth in recent years even though the council was loaded with elitists. The current council has not been much of a factor. It is very hard to control growth, despite the activism of some that would have us believe that they are the answer. The market seems to hold the real power.


Scott Wedel 7 years, 8 months ago

I politely suggest the relevant standard for the SB 700 project needs to consider the negatives of the project not going forward. In particular, to the extent in which if it is not approved then that would push more growth to Stagecoach and Hayden. And it is my understanding that the longstanding regional plan that has SB's growth focused to the west, requires annexing and developing this property before other properties in the community plan's proposed boundaries can be annexed.

I have no idea how much that is, but as a point of reference, the housing prices in Steamboat II and Stagecoach are pretty close.

Another point of reference is that there is $60M of wages paid in Routt to people that live in Moffat. That suggests at least a thousand people live in Moffat and work in Routt. Presumably, the great majority of those live in Craig and work in SB. More of that is not exactly intended in the community plan.


4genlocal 7 years, 8 months ago

Ok so I have a question the CA is against growth right? But the CA is for affordable housing right? Have they ever considered supply and demand? The past few years should have illustrated it for them. Housing prices were out of control, there was a high demand. All it took was a pulse to get a loan. Now housing prices are dropping you have to qualify for a loan. To get AH in steamboat we need a steady supply of new houses and new development. The developers cannot be regulated to death in the process. To cope with the headache and cost of dealing with groups like the CA they just raise the price. To offset deed restricted lots the raise the price of all other lots/ units. This leaves a development of the RICH and the POOR who in most cases are not working enough or not making smart decisions with their money/lifestyle. Think of all the AH that happened in the last 6 years how are those people now?? Many of them qualified for loans that the never should have. So what does the CA really want??? Can't ride 2 horses with one butt.


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