Letter to the editor: Steamboat 700 vote

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— Growth can be good. In a strong economic environment where existing year-round employers are adding to staff and new business/light industry is moving to the valley with high-paying, stable, year-round jobs, planned communities such as Steamboat 700 are viable and desirable.

However, Steamboat Springs and the nation do not find themselves in such a position. In fact, a number of economists have indicated that 2010 may be worse economically than 2009. The dilemma for our City Council and community is the commitment of high tax dollars to the unknown by annexing the Steamboat 700 project. Is that a risk we want to gamble on at this time? Are there currently members of the council or Chamber who are traveling the country looking for new employers to move to our valley?

One visit to the Food Bank will tell the story of half-empty shelves. A visit with LIFT-UP staff will verify the thousands of dollars being spent each month to buy food to feed the unemployed and underemployed residents of Routt County who would like nothing more than a stable, year-round job. We want to know who the developers think will be buying homes in the Steamboat 700 project if there are no jobs to support a mortgage?

We have a major issue within the city limits to be concerned with - the lifeline of the community, the long-term viability of the ski area. Council should be focused on commercial development at the base of the mountain or we will not be able to compete with Vail, Aspen and other major ski areas for the foreseeable future.

While we agree with Rob Douglas about not voting on every annexation request, Steamboat 700 is much too large a financial commitment for the council to make without our vote. Whether you are for or against the annexation, we must all be allowed to vote on the issue so council has a clear directive from the community.

Ken and Cindy Constantine

Ron and Dena Shively

David and Anne Hood

Richard Reed

Kay Wagner

Comments

Dan Hill 5 years, 4 months ago

From everything that is reported about the annexation negotiations, it is cleat that it is not the City spending money up front; they've loaded the developer down with a truck load of requirements to fund every piece of city infrastructure they can think of (including a new public safety facility for the entire city!), to the point where I wouldn't be surprised if the developer walks away.

Plus you have to take a long term view. This is about managing growth in Steamboat over the next 20-30 years. Do we really want to be in an even worse position in terms of housing affordability in a couple of years when the economy recovers?

The problem I have with a vote is that this is a very complex issue, and I have very little faith that the majority of citizens will inform themselves of the facts before voting or think about the trade offs between growth and affordability. I don't agree with our city councillors on a lot of issues, but at least on this issue they're all in a position to make a well informed judgement.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 4 months ago

This project has been in planning by the community for the last 15 years. The 700 group stepped and purchased the land about three years ago. Public input has been involved the whole way. This project is the alternative to patchwork development and the 35 acre parcels. Once the commercial area opens up, it will alleviate some traffic from the west area needing to go to and thru town. Highway 40 traffic should be lessened, this road is not the responsability of 700 but they will share in some of the effort. Without the 700 contribution we will be paying regardless as growth occurs. If the economy is slow as has been mentioned in this article, the developers will have to wait, and the city will not be out money because of this development. Today the developers can't predict the future and they are not in a position to be a candy store, but if the project does not go they will need to cash out, and the easy route is 35 acre parcels. Then all the needed infrastructure will become necessary and no sugar daddy, or a viable commercial area to balance the community. Maybe you like going down Lincoln to go to the grocery store, but I dread the idea.

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cindy constantine 5 years, 4 months ago

I have watched boom and bust cycles in this community as have all long term residents before. But we are in unprecedented economic times. You are right that no one can predict the future, so why not focus on the one known entity we have going for us
A well positioned resort to compete in hard economic times. WE must focus our attention and limited tax dollars on the base area of the mountain as a tourist based economy. Again I ask, who do you think will be living in the project 5, 10 or 20 years down the road? It seems a bit unrealistic to "build it and they will come" truly a Field of Dreams!!

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goremtn 5 years, 4 months ago

Cindy: in many ways I was following along with your letter OK....it is a lot to think about the 700 annexation in this economy, it's scary when it feels like the world has stopped cold....but I am not really with you that the the "lifeline of the community" is the base of the ski area. And in your 2nd message that our focus and "limited tax dollars" should be put into the base area, so we can chase the Vails and the Aspens and the narrow focus of a "tourist based economy"....This is a question of priorities, I guess. You ask who will be living in Steamboat 700 (and 360 Village?) in 5,10,20 years? I'd like to think it will be our brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, sons , daughters, grandsons and grandaughters who grow up here but more and more move out into the county because of the dearth of good housing in town, or leave NW CO altogether because there is no real career options other than in the "Tourist Based Economy." I just disagree that it is an "either-or" situation that you suggest it is....that either we support tourism or we don't. We can and should do both.

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cindy constantine 5 years, 4 months ago

Thanks goremtn for you comments. I too am for a sustainable economy that has a broad based job market. I have three college graduates that would love to move home but see no opportunities here. I would like to think we are a community first and a resort second. However with the well published accounts of Fortresses economic troubles, I have had to ponder what seems to be impossible. If, god forbid, the ski area was unable to open one season because we are still in a recession a few years out what would our town look like then? We must keep the guests coming and from my experience as a business owner, the base area is KEY to keeping the winter guests coming. I have had this conversation with many of them and many (who are not second home owners) have told me they are taking a break until the base area offers the same amenities as other areas.
If Council would look back at the sales tax records from 1997-2007 prior to Ski Time Square being demolished it would remind them of what we have lost and what could be gained. Yes guests will continue to come but want the shopping, restaurants, entertainment close by when winter weather makes the wait for the shuttle downtown an unpleasant option. Even better would be a Chamber that tries to encourage new business to our valley to make it much less resort dependent. Is that possible? Could we create an enterprise zone with tax credits to make it attractive for business to move here. We all know what a wonderful lifestyle for their employees. Annexation makes a bunch of sense then. One of those horse/cart dilemmas.

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Chad James 5 years, 4 months ago

The City council has been adamant that the project pay its own way and to make sure of that they hired Economic Research Consultants to assess the fiscal impact of the development and under the three different absorption schedules has shown that S700 actually produces a net gain even under conservative assumptions.

S700 did not ask the City to put all the infrastructure in like the Base area developers did. They are additionally contributing to affordable housing, traffic, schools, providing parks, open space and trails, office space, shopping and entertainment.

This is not a case of build it they will come. I am quite sure that no houses will be built if there is not any demand for those houses.

SB700 is not in the same position as the base area where they started building thinking demand would continue. In fact, I'll guess that if the base area developers knew what they do today they wouldn't have started construction..and in fact there are many developers today putting projects on hold, or even scrapping them altogether because of our current situation. So the idea of some form of "ghost town" is not even the slightest reality-based assumption.

In terms to who will live in these houses in 5, 10, 20 years? It will be the same people who have been moving here for the last 40 years (through a couple of major recessions). The same people who now choose to live in Hayden, Stagecoach, Oak Creek because they can't afford it here. And it will be the people who drive or ride the bus from Craig today. People who enjoy the quality of life this valley holds, a big part of which is based in the fact that Steamboat Springs is a real town with a resort as opposed to just a resort town.

Folks A LOT of this information can be found on the S700 website. You really should check it out some time!

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beentheredonethat 5 years, 4 months ago

It would be much better to avoid annexing Steamboat 700 and let the market determine the best use of land and growth. If the demand is there then a developer will build, the City has no business to provide "affordable" housing. There is no such thing as "affordable" housing, in and around premium resort communities throughout this country. The outlying communities of Milner, Hayden, Craig, Oak Creek are perfectly capable of providing real estate at much lower costs than this Steamboat 700 boondoggle can dream of. The City Council is arrogant to believe that they are in the housing business and should refrain from continuing down this road. It is time to put this issue to a vote and allow the citizens to lead and annul this nonsense.

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cindy constantine 5 years, 4 months ago

How can the S700 pay its own way if the project is annexed. Even if the developer pays 100% if the initial cost, once annexed the city is obligated to plow/maintain the roads, provide law enforcement patrol and all other services of a city"neighborhood", even if it takes years for the first block to be built. WHAT MAKES EVERYONE THINK PEOPLE WILL KEEP MOVING HERE JUST AS IN THE PAST??? These are unprecedented economic times and unless we can come up with a DIVERSE economic base there will be no jobs!! The cheapest of housing will not be attainable.

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cindy constantine 5 years, 4 months ago

And further we will all be looking for an affordable loaf of bread when Obama starts printing money to pay for all the debt he has taken on. Sorry, couldn't help myself with that one. LOL

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danny 5 years, 4 months ago

Cindy- I'm afraid you might be right about the loaf of bread but I do need to correct a couple of facts, especially about "City Services" such as snow removal, law enforcement etc...

The City is focused on the Base Area; they approved the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) and even agreed to move forward, in these unprecedented times, with issuing bonds for the infrastructure enhancements at the base area. This was an incredibly bold move in this economy- they are trying to be competitive with the other resort markets and had to take a chance. This is also a reason why providing a growth area for workforce housing is so important; every hotel room will generate at least 1.8 employees and every restaurant will generate 3 employees. Where are they going to live? What happens to affordability if all these new demands are placed on the current inventory of housing? How do small businesses compete for employees if the cost of living in the community becomes more elevated?
We are fully aware of the unprecedented economic times we are in. Fortunately, we always knew this would be a 20 year development that wasn't going to start until 2011/2012 at the earliest. We obviously never expected this but we have been through other boom and bust cycles and were aware of those risks when we decide to pursue a 20 yr project. Steamboat 700 does not happen overnight, if there are no jobs to fill the houses then no houses get built, if no houses get built there are no impacts on the community. If houses get built then the revenues generated by the self imposed property tax, real estate transfer fee, cash contributions, and use & excise taxes not only pay their own way but contribute to existing community challenges such as US40 funding, affordable housing, fire station, police station etc... This project provides, 30 acres of parks, 12+ miles of trails, shopping, entertainment, office space, daycare, grocery store, etc.. and a community for the work force of Steamboat Springs.
Cont...

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danny 5 years, 4 months ago

But to correct the statement about "City Services" SB700 has proposed to handle all of the internal street and park maintenance until we can provide enough revenue to build a new west steamboat public works and parks maintenance facility and the associated equipment. Additionally, the fiscal impact consultant hired by the City demonstrated that the increased revenues from this development will actually produce a net gain to the City (unless they change something) which includes paying for all of the additional city services. The City had their consultant run multiple scenarios to determine how this project might cost the existing community.

Community leaders were forward thinking when they protected the South Valley floor, Emerald Mtn, and Strawberry Park by designating west steamboat as the growth area. They were visionary when they made the effort to preserve the character of the community and set a goal of getting 70% of the people who worked in Steamboat the opportunity to live in Steamboat. Those efforts created the WSSAP.

Steamboat 700 is an opportunity for the next generation to live here, an opportunity to diversify the economy, an opportunity to prevent sprawl throughout the county, an opportunity to provide balance to the housing market, and an opportunity to prepare for and manage the growth of the community.

There is a discussion of the fiscal impacts with City Council on August 11th. All the documentation is on the City's website and Steamboat700.com. Please feel free to contact me at anytime if you want more information or further clarification

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Duke_bets 5 years, 4 months ago

Cindy - Where did all of the debt come from? It seems we had a surplus at the end of Clinton's campaign. Who supported the investment banks and auto industry? Who let those stocks run wild? Money had to run out during the Bush era and it did. Obama's been in office for 7 months. Do you possibly think the USA was heading towards a recession for the past 8 years?

Sorry, couldn't help myself, LOL.

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 4 months ago

It is simply wrong to look at local companies to provide the jobs that will employ new residents of Steamboat. This is a desirable place to live and will attract people able to work any where - the so called information workers.

It is simply wrong for the City to consider the overall economy and whether the developer is making a wise investment in proposing this development. That is the free market and wisdom of investment is the decision the developer makes.

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cindy constantine 5 years, 4 months ago

You are right Scott about a developer making an investment in a free market. But the project was not in the city limits at the time and that is the risk he takes in a free market. Annexation was not guaranteed. A lot of folks may want to live here-I want a second home in Maui-but we don't always get what we want. How many homes, in all price ranges I might add, are on the market now. And how many more will be coming on line as jobs in our own community disappear monthly? Where is that crystal ball when we need it?

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jk 5 years, 4 months ago

danny, I am trying to figure out where you got your information about the employees that will be generated? 1.8 for every hotel room haha that is a good laugh.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 4 months ago

I have been around a long time, is this a better time to invest than say, two years ago? Market timing is everything and having a product ready in a few years is good business. Wagner Equipment put their facility in Hayden when the S@L mess was in the tank. In the coming years this worked out well. The people who plunged two or three years ago are now looking foolish. Good investors usually invest opposite the market cycle.

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JLM 5 years, 4 months ago

Real estate is an asset class which exists for a long, long time. To make a decision on an asset class which may last for 100 years based solely upon the current times is like trying to catch the top or bottom of the stock market --- we know how easy that is, eh?

Ultimately if the City of SBS wants to exert regulatory control they are going to have to provide services and providing services suggests annexation.

I think the City Council has done an admirable job of ensuring the Steamboat 700 has its skin in the game.

A representative democracy mandates that leaders are chosen by the voters and those leaders represent and decide on behalf of the voters. If the voters are to vote directly, then there is no need for a representative to be elected nor a representative democracy.

You want to exert control? Vote.

There is nothing inherently wrong with having a local economy which depends upon second home owners. That is the lot in life of a tourist destination.

There is also no reason to oppose trying to create jobs which diversify the local economy. That is a good idea.

Everything in life is a matter of seeking balance and diversifying our risk.

Stay calm, it's going to be OK. My greatest short term concern is the ski mountain pricing itself out of business. They have excess capacity and need to adopt a marketing approach which recognizes that the inventory of lift seats left unsold expires worthless. This is logic by which "yield management" pricing has driven airline ticket prices.

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cindy constantine 5 years, 4 months ago

If what JLM says is true and the ski mountain is close to pricing itself out of the market our community will look like a small version of Flint MI. That is my point about being a "resort" first and a community second. All of our eggs have been placed in that basket. Believe it or not I am a pro growth advocate but based on JOB growth. Again what about tax incentive for a business enterprise zone on the west side? I have always felt that our Chamber has dropped the ball in appealing to guests only. We may like having people come, spend their money then leave but is that a reasonable model for a sustainable community?

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freerider 5 years, 4 months ago

Almost $100.00 For a lift ticket these days....I was in Vail last year several times...you sure wouldn't know there was a recession going on...The village was jamming and there were the usual lines on the mountain..they dropped the price of a pass to around $550.00 unrestricted .... smart on there part , they got a lot of return business that way because people were buying passes instead of day tickets and then they would come back for more..The price of a day ticket is just a plain old rip-off . It was noticibly slower in Steamboat last year. So I would say that Ski Corp. is pricing themselves out of the game...I don't know how people can afford this sport anymore

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addlip2U 5 years, 4 months ago

Who will live in those houses? If the economy continue as is, they will remain unoccupied or rented to low income and filled with too many transient workers that are taking jobs away from local. Why do we bring foreign visa or yet illegal workers in when we can't even keep US citizens employed?

Do we see a shortage of housing in Steamboat and surrounding areas now? I don't think so. Unless there is a good job base, there is NO NEED for 700!

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