Residents attend Friday's candidates forum at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Residents attend Friday's candidates forum at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

Council candidates address concerns about Steamboat 700 at forum

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Election 2009

Visit www.steamboatpilot.com/election2009 for complete coverage of this year's races and issues.

Candidates

- District 1 (four years): Cari Hermacinski (at-large incumbent, council president pro tem), Kevin Bennett (former council president)

- District 2 (four years): Kenny Reisman, Ken Solomon

- District 3 (four years): Walter Magill (District 3 incumbent)

- At-large (two years): Jim Engelken (former councilman), Kyle Pietras

- Not up for election: Scott Myller (District 1), Meg Bentley (District 2), Jon Quinn (District 3)

- Leaving council: Loui Antonucci (District 2, council president, term-limited), Steve Ivancie (District 1, term-limited)

Don't forget

Monday is the last day to register to vote or update your address with the Routt County Clerk and Recorder's Office. Log on to our election site to download registration forms and to verify your voter status. Voters also can call the Routt County Clerk and Recorder's Office at 870-5556 or stop by the Routt County Courthouse.

— The proposed Steamboat 700 annexation - to differing degrees - split the candidates in all three contested races for the Steamboat Springs City Council at a Friday election forum.

Former Councilman Jim Engelken, a candidate for council's two-year at-large seat, said he opposes the development as proposed because he doesn't think that it will create the affordable housing envisioned by the original West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, and he thinks that it lacks other public benefits.

"As currently proposed, I do not support the deal that's being offered," said Engelken, who said the huge density boosts that accompany annexation should be accompanied by huge public benefits.

Kyle Pietras, Engelken's opponent in the at-large race, stopped short of endorsing the project but said it has the potential to solve city problems such as traffic and affordable housing.

"This is a partnership to help fix a lot of these problems," Pietras said. "If all of these things are fulfilled by Steamboat 700, I think it could be great for this town."

Steamboat 700 proposes 2,000 homes and 380,000 square feet of commercial space on 487 acres just west of city limits.

On other topics, Engelken's comfort and familiarity with city issues stood in contrast to Pietras'. Pietras, the owner of a small landscaping company, was stumped on two of the four questions asked by moderator and Steamboat Pilot & Today Editor Brent Boyer.

To answer a question about the city's community support budget, Pietras first had to be told what it included. Community support spending is a relatively small but emotional and often publicized portion of the city budget that goes toward organizations dedicated to areas such as the arts, human services and the environment.

After an explanation by Boyer, Pietras said essential and core functions of city government deserved more attention.

"I think those programs should be at the bottom of the list," Pietras said.

Engelken agreed that community support spending is "a lower-rung priority" but said it is nonetheless important. Engelken said he would like to see local nonprofit groups work together more to reduce redundant services and reduce their requests to the city for funding.

District 2

Ken Solomon, a candidate for the four-year District 2 seat, said he does not support Steamboat 700 as proposed. In addition to having affordable housing concerns, Solomon said he was uncomfortable with the lack of attention being paid to the 13th Street bottleneck.

Although improvements to U.S. Highway 40 in western Steamboat would accompany the annexation, bottleneck fixes are not specifically identified or required of Steamboat 700.

"I can't imagine what it would look like on a powder morning," Solomon said about the intersection at the entrance to downtown.

Kenny Reisman, Solomon's opponent, also stopped short of an outright endorsement of the project but said the council's initial approval of the annexation Tuesday - in a 4-3 vote - was the correct decision. He also said it was correct for the council to ask Steamboat 700 developers to make a number of changes to their proposal.

"We need as much as we can get in writing," Reisman said. "I don't believe in reactive growth. We need to have a plan in place."

District 1

The candidates for a four-year District 1 seat - Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski and former City Council President Kevin Bennett - oppose Steamboat 700 in its current form, but for different reasons.

Bennett shares Engelken's concerns about the development's affordable housing plan and also opposes allowing Steamboat 700 to make a payment in lieu of conveying water rights to the city.

Hermacinski doesn't have a problem with either of those issues but said she was skeptical that free-market homes in Steamboat 700 would be attainable for middle-class, local residents because of the high cost of public improvements required in the annexation agreement.

Councilman Walter Magill is running unopposed in the District 3 race. He said he was proud of the current council's work to reduce the city budget and would like to work to create a teen center, add a second sheet of ice to the Howelsen Ice Arena and improve the quality of public restrooms at city parks.

The Pilot & Today, Steamboat TV18, the Routt County Republican Party, the Routt County Democratic Party and the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors sponsored Friday's forum. It was taped and will be rebroadcast on Steamboat TV18, Comcast Channel 18, throughout the election cycle. The days and times of the rebroadcast schedule will be announced.

Comments

Fred Duckels 5 years ago

I was glad that Kevin Bennett and Ken Solomon bought up the inadequacy of our traffic situation. The irony here is that both Bennett and Engelken were part of the 98 mobility study that warned of this very problem. Their solution was to have the traffic lights synchronized better, by CDOT of course. No long range plans were considered, and here we are. Were they caving to the downtown retail special interests at the expense of the greater community? Addressing existing and future traffic should be at the top of any list, considering the comments at the 700 city council meeting on Tuesday. The retail proposed at 700 is one huge step to solving some of the traffic problems albeit at the chagrin of downtown interests.

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Fred Duckels 5 years ago

Cindy, Ir you are talking about the 98 plan I think it was city financed, I'm not sure if the county participated.

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Fred Duckels 5 years ago

Cindy, No, 700 is paying for traffic studies and all city expenses for planning to process the project. The risk is on 700, they will proceed slowly and develop only as demand rises, if anything fails we would not be stuck with a massive problem. Most of it will not be disturbed until it is needed in the future. I would vote for it just because of the grocery store.

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danny 5 years ago

Cindy- a list of our investors has been provided to the community and is public record. Alpine bank has the only debt and there are two residents that are members.

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Fred Duckels 5 years ago

Engelken stated last night, "no more roads" are we going to stock up on smoke and mirrors, or is there a a better plan?

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Martha D Young 5 years ago

Only the unopposed City Council member states his unwavering support for Steamboat 700. Each of the reasons given by other candidates for opposing it must be addressed, preferably by a public vote. Please put this issue on the ballot.

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cindy constantine 5 years ago

Fred or Scott- Can you answer this question for me? I was going through the archives of newspaper articles and could not find out if there was any local money in the deal, i.e. Routt county investors, developers or local banks involved in any financing? Just curious if ALL the money invested so far is from out of state. Thanks!!

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cindy constantine 5 years ago

Thanks, Fred. No my question should have been more specific. Is any local money part of the Steamboat 700 deal as it stands now?

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cindy constantine 5 years ago

Sorry, I am not being very clear here. Who are the individual owners/investors in Steamboat 700. All out of state money or are there local investors in the partnership? Also do you know if any local lenders have loans on the property or are the bankers out of state as well? Or perhaps the $30,000,000 invested so far is all cash in the deal from these well-heeled investors.

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