Steamboat Springs voters won't have to wait long to express their feelings about City Council's handling of Steamboat 700.
A final vote about whether to annex the proposed master-planned community of about 500 acres is scheduled for Oct. 13. Mail-in ballots must be delivered to voters between Oct. 9 and 19. The coincidental timing underscores the substantial role Steamboat 700 will play in the 2009 Steamboat Springs City Council election.
Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski, who is running for re-election against former City Council President Kevin Bennett, said she expects voters' feelings about Steamboat 700 to affect which candidate they vote for.
"I think that will be an issue that's right in the forefront of people's minds," she said. "This is a big one. This is huge."
The project proposes about 2,000 homes to be built during a 20-year period. Supporters say it is one of Steamboat's only opportunities to provide work force housing in the city and note that the area west of the city has been identified as the city's preferred growth area.
Others, such as Bennett, say City Council is rushing the annexation, not requiring enough of the developer and "creating new problems" while not addressing those that already exist.
Councilman Walter Magill, who also is running for re-election, disagrees. He said Steamboat 700 prepares the city for the future.
"We're talking about land use, not so much a project," Magill said. "It's important to realize because people get the idea it's going to grow instantly. : This is a chance to plan from a blank slate."
Magill disagreed that the Steamboat 700 issue would dominate the campaign.
"I don't think the majority of the electorate are interested in only one issue," he said.
As part of countywide budget cuts, the Routt County Board of Commissioners approved an all-mail ballot for this year's election. Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland has said such an election - as opposed to one that also offers early voting and voting on Election Day proper - is much easier for her office to carry out and could save the county about $40,000 this year.
Mail ballots have surged in popularity in recent years. Forty-six percent of county voters chose absentee and mail voting options in 2008. Requests for mail ballots increased by 4,754 in 2008 compared with the previous presidential election in 2004.
The last day to register to vote in Routt County is Oct. 5. Voters who already are registered also should make sure the Routt County Clerk and Recorder's Office has their correct mailing addresses on file so that they will receive a ballot.