Our View: Time to push for 700 vote

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Editorial Board, June 2009 to September 2009

  • Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Grant Fenton, community representative
  • Paul Strong, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— City officials and Steamboat 700 developers should take all reasonable steps to complete annexation negotiations in time for a pre-election vote by the City Council. Such a vote, regardless of its outcome, would be in the best interest of the city and its residents.

Many critical issues involving the proposed master-planned community west of Steamboat Springs have been negotiated - including affordable housing and open space - but several substantial hurdles remain.

The city's Steamboat 700 negotiating team and the developers continue to meet weekly to hammer out agreements on items such as payment schedules and amounts for U.S. Highway 40 improvements, water resource development and a new police station. Those negotiations often reach a stalemate, at which point the City Council is asked to help set direction, as it did last week. But the council's once-a-month work session for Steamboat 700 might not be enough to help the negotiating team and developers wade through the complex annexation proposal in a timely manner. Doubling those efforts could help the two sides reach consensus on the proposal in time for a vote this fall, which would be appropriate given the familiarity, time and dedication the current council has given to the Steamboat 700 proposal.

This council, regardless of how it might vote on a final annexation proposal, is uniquely qualified to make such a critical decision for the future of Steamboat. Council members, city officials and staff are using the blueprint of the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan to guide them through the process. That's a plan born of years of community input and dialogue, and it recently was revised and readopted by a past City Council.

The result of a council vote on Steamboat 700 is anything but a foregone conclusion. The seven current council members have demonstrated a commitment to protecting the financial interest of the city and its residents.

We don't envy the decision that awaits council. But we hope they consider the long-term impacts and potential of Steamboat 700. The annexation of a large, 20-year development speaks directly to the passionate growth vs. no-growth ideologies held closely by many in our community. Make no mistake about it: Steamboat Springs and Routt County will continue to grow, even if that growth is temporarily stalled by the state of the economy.

Contrary to popular belief, the annexation of Steamboat 700 will not result in an immediate or even short-term explosion of growth in Steamboat Springs. Steamboat 700 is a long-term project, and buildout largely will be determined by market conditions.

City officials and residents would be wise to ask themselves what happens if a properly vetted, negotiated and master-planned community in west Steamboat isn't approved? Is piecemeal development in the west of Steamboat Springs area - or farther down the highway in communities such as Hayden, Stagecoach, Oak Creek and Craig - ideal for the retention of our community character, or does it move us closer to becoming the next Pitkin County?

We understand that those who have been vocal in their opposition to Steamboat 700 feel the project is not in the community's best interest, and they might prefer to see an annexation vote deferred to a new City Council. Although we disagree, it's worth reminding residents that a mechanism exists for citizens to petition the council's annexation vote onto a ballot. Such a vote would be to uphold or reject a council-approved or denied annexation ordinance.

City officials must continue to take every reasonable step to ensure the future fiscal security of Steamboat Springs, particularly as it relates to the impacts of a major development project like Steamboat 700. But perhaps it's time for the City Council to double its efforts to facilitate timely negotiations and a potential pre-election vote on Steamboat 700.

Comments

Steve Lewis 5 years, 1 month ago

Yes, this council is familiarized and prepared on this annexation but they can only decide when the big questions are resolved. Its far more desirable to get the answers right, regardless of the time frame. In my opinion the Pilot has its priorities reversed.

The NEPA traffic study for example, is critical to some of the biggest fiscal questions. It's so integral that Fed and State funding hinge on its findings. Yet last Tuesday night at City Council's worksession 700's engineer said "he had just glimpsed a significant jump in NEPA's cost projections". These big cost numbers are are not yet on the table?

Don't get me wrong, I'm hoping for a successful and responsible annexation, whatever the date. But decision should not be rushed, as the Pilot advises.

If a City Councilor does not fully understand the implications of a fiscal or planning issue (or my concern - the free market affordability brought by the annexation) and a vote is pressed, the only ethical vote would "NO".

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goremtn 5 years, 1 month ago

OK, I'll bite....Steve, please elaborate on what you mean by your concern about "the free market affordability brought by the annexation"? I may be ignorant, but this is the first time I've seen "free market" and "affordability" put together like that....and jeez, you are suggesting something is wrong with that but I cannot figure it out. Especially since you are also suggesting we're talking about "ethics" and all. Please shed some light....

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 1 month ago

Goremtn, I'll elaborate.

The primary reason for annexing is to create affordable housing opportunities within Steamboat Springs. It makes sense that annexing any parcel with new units should help the supply of affordable housing opportunities. But is that true? Yes, West area parcels would deliver 20% rental and ownership of their units within a deed restricted program. But the more important housing benefit of an annexation should be the opportunities it creates in the free market.

My concern with the "free market affordability brought by the annexation" is twofold:

1) What I saw cropping up in the tax mil levies the future owners will deal with. Their Metro Districts are poised to entail 20-30 years of 20-50 mils for infrastructure creation. Of course County, School District, CMC, Library, Cemetery District, Water conservancy district etc would all get added on top. 2) It appears 70% of the annexation units are projected to sell for >160% AMI. This seems to leave very little of the project, 10% ?, that actually may be attainable free market property.

So yes, I'm concerned with the end benefit of this annexation to Steamboat.

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 1 month ago

And about this Council vote in October. I doubt the City will be ready. Perhaps you were present for the fiscal worksession 7/14. There was already a big gap between revenues and costs before the 700 engineer alluded to the NEPA highway costs getting significantly bigger. Also the existing $$ analysis assumed help from the Fed and State. But State DOT representatives stood up to say we should not count on Fed or State money for this work.

There is a lot of work yet to do, and that work should be done before anyone offers a vote.

Forcing a vote in October just to prevent the next council from deciding this, as the Pilot has recommended, is a rationale I don't support in the least.

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freerider 5 years, 1 month ago

Got to agree with Steve here...what's the hurry , I guess the pilot thinks the 700 vote should be shoved down our throats ...the only vote that should happen is the one the Routt County residents have a say in...my view is that we should let the people speak for themselves. The city council isn't qualified to make this decision for us .

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 1 month ago

freerider, The way this works, Steamboat citizens might vote on the annexation. County citizens definitely will not.

But this should be of interest to you, and to your county neighbors:

The county commissioners are split on how much of the new road (700 to Elk River Road) the taxpayers will build.

Diane Mitsch-Bush is the one dessenting vote, as I understand it, and Doug and Nancy plan to have the county pay for some of that road.

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 1 month ago

This viewpoint just sticks in my craw. This Pilot viewpoint is worse than wrong.

The Pilot here expresses its opinion that this council is more likely to annex 700 than a subsequent council. That's disturbing. I've heard no one else say anything about this. Dear Pilot, We don't even have a candidate registered yet.

The Pilot then goes on to recommend this council is "uniquely qualified" to vote on this annexation, and they should vote before the election.

That's even more disturbing.

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 1 month ago

Looking back chronologically, the Pilot editorial trend that I remember: a) No wet water rights from 700
b) No public vote on 700 c) Push for Oct annexation vote in spite of information INCREASING fiscal gap (see NEPA study) d) CAYV organizer announces petition for public vote on annexations e) 3 days later Pilot article reaches to event in another state to write article which undermines the organizer and CAYV f) article discrediting organizer is placed the page before Douglas commentary which, first ties organizer to public vote and then, advocates against public vote

Where has the Pilot viewpoint had anything to say about 700 that would represent the better interests of the taxpayers?

To be fair, I tend to agree with a) and b). Could be I'm a moderate. The Pilot on the other hand, looks like its editorial is being written by Steamboat 700.

The juxtaposition of Douglas and the slam on Aigner is not likely coincidence, given Douglas taunted the Aigner about the Iowa video several days earlier.

Someone please offer an editorial I missed where the Pilot has taken the taxpayer's side of this question. Recent would be more relevant than old, but anything would make me feel better.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 1 month ago

Steve, I sense more agenda here than concern for the public. You seem to present every possible roadblock for this development. You seem to be attacking anything that would be favorable to 700. I'm not such a 700 fan but fairplay makes me feel better about our commenity.

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Steve Lewis 5 years, 1 month ago

Fred, Please read again what I said, "I tend to agree with a) and b)".

Fred, both a)and b) support 700.

Your comment directly below mine: "You seem to present every possible roadblock for this development. You seem to be attacking anything that would be favorable to 700."

Fred, again and again you illustrate that you care little about what people actually said. And as is typical all you want to discuss is me or my character. Never a fact argued.

Perhaps in re-reading you will grasp my question is about the newspaper, not about 700. If I'm unfair, it should be easy to show me where my recollection is incomplete, as I've invited anyone to do.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 1 month ago

Steve, You say that you are in favor of the 700 without going to a vote. I sense from you and other CA surrogates that the plan is to run out the clock on the present council and get a more favorable crew to meet your interests. The 700 has appeared to be a dream come true for social engineers, and the down economy is preventing the candy store mentality. This is a case of extracting all that the traffic will bear from the private sector. If we strangle this project, who will stand up and take the heat, certainly not you, nor the CA. This is not about your character but what I observe, I know that you mean well.

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