Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs City Council won't let Steamboat 700 developers off the hook when it comes to paying for all or part of a new $9 million police station. However, council members agreed in principle Tuesday night to cutting the developers some slack on U.S. Highway 40 improvements.
Council met with the developers in a work session that went beyond five hours as both sides sought common ground on the best mechanism to manage $80 million of public infrastructure improvements associated with the proposed development and its bid to be annexed into the city. The site west of the city has long been identified as the area where someday Steamboat would grow in a measured way to provide housing for working families.
The collegial tone of Tuesday night's discussion didn't reflect all of the urgency Steamboat 700 Project Manager Danny Mulcahy is feeling as summer wears on.
"The growth area is gone if I don't get annexed this year," Mulcahy told the Steamboat Pilot & Today during an interview Tuesday morning. "I'll cut my losses and go. I'm not going to go through this for another two or three years."
However, Mulcahy also expressed strong optimism that should council approval of his project be put to a public vote, he would prevail by a significant margin. And he strongly hinted that if council rejects his petition, he might seek a public vote himself.
"If the city turns down my annexation, then I go get my own signatures," Mulcahy said.
Steamboat 700 came to the meeting prepared to ask the city to eliminate some of the line items it is asking the developer to fund, including a new police headquarters, and defer others into the future to ease the financing burden.
"The thorniest project has to do with the new public safety building," Steamboat 700 financial consultant Jean Townsend said. "We can't find numbers to show that Steamboat 700 would create more than 22 percent of the demand even at build-out. There just aren't enough revenues to fund a $9 million project by 2016."
Mulcahy has said he doesn't think it's reasonable to ask the developer to fund a city facility that was needed before the project was proposed.
However, City Council responded that the intent of city staff was to land on one significant public project to require of the developers rather than attempting to assign a percentage of Steamboat 700 impacts to every project on its capital improvement plan. Council members pointed out that the new residents of Steamboat 700 would have a substantial impact on existing community facilities.
"(The public safety building) is one bit of public benefit that is coming out of this," Councilman Scott Myller said. "The community is already providing an ice rink and all kinds of stuff."
His colleagues agreed.
Council has been concerned all spring and summer about a looming gap between the revenues Steamboat 700 will generate from property taxes within its metro districts and a real estate transfer tax, and the cost of building roads and other infrastructure decades into the future.
Townsend advanced a new economic model that showed how cutting some improvements and deferring others could close that gap, not just at the end of the plan, but throughout its development. She scored some points with council members when she argued that several phases of U.S. 40 improvements could be set aside as contingency items - to be built only when traffic volume warranted the work. Specifically, she asked that highway improvements beyond Steamboat West Boulevard, the entrance to Steamboat 700, and stretching all the way to Steamboat II and Heritage Park, be delayed until demand warrants.
"The need to widen the highway there will come from other developments," she predicted, and waiting could postpone the need to spend more than $13 million, significantly narrowing the gap between revenues and costs.
Mulcahy urged council members to read the recent Vision 2030 report, which he suggested indirectly endorses Steamboat 700. Two women who played significant roles in drafting Vision 2030 responded during public comment.
Vision 2030's Diane Brower said the prospect for work force housing at Steamboat 700 is limited.
"It's a misconception this development will meet the community's affordable housing needs. It absolutely will not," she said.
She cited a report that concluded that developments like 700 typically create a built-in need for 15 percent affordable housing. The West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan calls for 20 percent affordable housing, meaning that the development would only yield a net of 5 percent affordable housing, she concluded.
Kathy Stokes agreed with Mulcahy.
"We asked for phased growth, and we asked for paced growth," Stokes said. "We've got to grow. The question is whether we'll have places for people to live when we do grow. This plan addresses transportation, schools and shopping. It's a real community, not affordable housing mixed in with tourism units."