Council OKs Steamboat 700 vote

City voters will weigh in on proposed annexation in March 9 ballot

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— Editor's Note: This story has been changed from its original version, to reflect that City Council approved only a first reading of zoning changes for a two-lot parcel at Storm Meadows Drive and Burgess Creek Road. Final approval is pending a second reading of the ordinance.

The Steamboat Springs City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to put the Steamboat 700 annexation to a public vote, which will conclude March 9.

Ballots for the mail-only election will be sent to registered city voters between Feb. 15 and Feb. 19, according to state statute and a document from City Attorney Tony Lettunich.

The ballot question, to be known as Referendum A, reads: “Should ordinance number 2276 adopted by the Steamboat Springs City Council on Oct. 13, 2009, annexing to the city and approving an annexation agreement for a parcel of 484.80 acres more or less, generally known as Steamboat 700, be upheld?”

The council discussed whether the language of the question might be unclear but decided against adding clarifying sentences when Lettunich warned that could leave the city open to a legal challenge. Simply put, a “yes” vote would uphold the ordinance and allow the annexation; a “no” vote would repeal the ordinance and stop the annexation.

Council members Jim En­­gelken and Meg Bentley said they had concerns about the annexation agreement, and Engelken moved to repeal the ordinance, but that motion died without a second.

All council members then voted for a public vote.

Bentley said despite her concerns, “I think we owe it to everybody to go ahead and put this to a vote.”

“I think this is where representative government meets democracy,” added Council President Cari Hermacinski, referring to the citizen-led petition process that returned the approval of Steamboat 700 to the City Council and led to the public vote.

Steamboat 700 proposes about 2,000 homes and 380,000 square feet of commercial space just west of the current city limits. City planning documents cite a 20- to 30-year timeframe for development.

The Let’s Vote group, which gathered petition signatures in favor of a public vote, said during the petition effort that its only intent was to lobby for a public vote. Tuesday night, however, group spokesman Tim Rowse stood before City Council and spoke in strong opposition to Steamboat 700, saying the annexation has “too many hidden and unknown costs.”

Later Tuesday night, Coun­cilman Jon Quinn described Rowse’s comments as “ironic.”

The Let’s Vote group submitted numerous questions about Steamboat 700 to City Council members this week. The questions involve the costs, infrastructure needs, revenue sources and water and wastewater needs related to Steamboat 700. Hermacinski directed the group to submit the questions to City Manager Jon Roberts, who will work with city staff to formulate and publicly release answers to those questions and others as part of a public information process in coming weeks.

Hermacinski said she would like that process to include public meetings and question-and-answer sessions about Steamboat 700. The council gave broad support to the idea, as did Steamboat 700 attorney Bob Weiss.

“We think a full debate and discussion is a good thing,” Weiss said. “We look forward to participating in it.”

Also Tuesday, the City Coun­cil adopted fee increases proposed by the Routt County Regional Building Department in a 4-3 vote. Hermacinski, Bentley and Councilman Wal­ter Magill voted against the increases, which include hikes of about 58 percent each for building permits and plan checks, depending on the scope of the project, and will be effective Jan. 1. Building official Carl Dunham said the increases are “a stop-gap measure” to allow the Building Department to maintain service levels in the face of drastically declining revenues.

Routt County commissioners and the Oak Creek Town Board approved the fee increases earlier this month.

The City Council delayed a decision on regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries, tabling action until Jan. 5. The delay arose after Quinn questioned a provision that would allow law enforcement to access video surveillance from dispensaries at anytime during normal business hours. Quinn called that “a violation of privacy in terms of patients’ rights.” The City Council directed staff attorney Dan Foote to work with law enforcement to revise the provision.

With a 3-2 vote Tuesday night, the City Council gave initial approval to zoning changes for a 2.1-acre, two-lot property at the intersection of Burgess Creek Road and Storm Meadows Drive, supporting higher density on the site to be developed by Ski Country LLC. Quinn and Councilman Kenny Reisman stepped down from the discussion and vote because of conflicts of interest. Bentley and Engelken opposed the zoning changes, which Engelken called “way beyond the capacity of Burgess Creek Road.” Final approval is dependent on a second reading of the ordinance.

Finally, the City Council approved the final development plan for a 15,382-square-foot expansion to Holy Name Catholic Church, 504 Oak St., with a 4-1 vote, Engelken opposing.

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