Our View: Council should approve Steamboat 700

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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.

The annexation of Steamboat 700 isn't about today, tomorrow, next month, next year or even five years from now. It's about the long-term future and growth of our community, and although that may be a difficult goal to focus on amid an economic recession, it's the proactive approach our elected officials should take and are taking.

After nearly two years of negotiating with Steamboat 700 developers, city officials are scheduled to take a final vote next week on an annexation agreement that we think offers substantial promise for the future of our community while also addressing some of the issues we have struggled with for years. Although the agreement may not be perfect - and no annexation agreement ever will be - it is worth a yes vote from our City Council members, and it is worth the support of the greater Steamboat community.

To understand how Steamboat 700 meets the needs of our community, it's essential to first understand the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan and how that plan came to be. The numerous entities and residents that participated in the WSSAP creation correctly recognized that growth is inevitable in our beautiful valley. For the same reasons we came here to settle and build our lives, future residents will come here to settle and build their lives. But developable land within city limits - and even within close proximity of city limits - is limited, and so lands west of city limits were identified and marked as the most appropriate and logical for future residential growth.

"If residential growth cannot occur within the Steamboat Springs urban area, it will likely be forced to outlying areas such as Oak Creek, Stagecoach, Hayden and Craig. This will result in increased commuting time, road and infrastructure costs, traffic impacts, split family life and other social costs, and higher costs of recruiting a work force for Steamboat Springs businesses," the plan reads.

Not all growth is good, and it can be particularly bad when it's not part of a larger growth strategy. The West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan establishes goals for our growth, including the creation of affordable housing, commercial centers to provide self-sufficiency for the newly developed area, schools and the New Victory Highway. But after its adoption in 1999, there was little progress in providing affordable housing in the identified growth area. So the City Council and Routt County Board of Commissioners got together in 2005 to begin an update to the plan. The update had three goals, No. 1 being to ensure that the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan is achievable.

In March 2007, Steamboat 700 LLC purchased 540 acres of land within the WSSAP for $24.6 million. The same group purchased an adjoining 160 acres, and the 700 total acres represent about 80 percent of the land in the WSSAP. Since the purchase, Steamboat 700, led by Danny Mulcahy, has worked with city staff and officials to negotiate the annexation agreement the council will decide on Tuesday. The negotiations haven't been easy, nor should they, as city officials and their attorneys, including an annexation expert, have worked to ensure that the deal is in the best interest of the community. We believe it is.

Steamboat 700 represents our opportunity as a community to see the WSSAP come to fruition, and in so doing, to create a master-planned community that helps provide needed infrastructure improvements. Those include U.S. Highway 40 work that will be needed regardless of whether Steamboat 700 is developed; land and money for deed-restricted, affordable housing; a future stock of housing units that will help prevent the insane run-up in home values experienced just a couple of years ago, thus keeping Steamboat more affordable for its work force; a west Steamboat commercial center and grocery store; parks and open space; money for a new K-8 school and improvements to the existing high school; and funds to help expand the city's municipal water supply.

There is much more to the deal than can be printed here, but it is all available online at www.steamboatpilot.com/news/steamboat700.

The magnitude of the proposal, and its impact on Steamboat, understandably is causing a great deal of fear among some in our community. As such, there are myths about Steamboat 700 that need to be debunked.

- There's no market for a new development offering 2,000 residences.

Steamboat 700 won't be developed overnight, or even in a decade. Rather, the development would not achieve build-out for as many as 30 years. The first homes likely wouldn't be built until 2012, at the earliest. In 2007, our real estate market reached record levels. In 2009, it shrank to record levels. Who knows what it will be in 2012, 2017, 2020 or 2025? But we do know that the free market will dictate the pace of development and sales. If they can't be sold, they won't be built.

- There are no jobs for all the new Steamboat 700 residents.

Do jobs exist today for thousands of new residents? No. Steamboat Springs and Routt County will continue to grow, that much is inevitable. Growth itself can create jobs in industries such as construction and retail, but we also must remember the large numbers of location-neutral businesses and workers who continue to make Steamboat home. People won't move here if there aren't jobs to support their move. And if people don't move here, the homes won't be built.

- There's not enough water to support Steamboat 700.

The city has sufficient water supply to meet the demands of a development the size of Steamboat 700. A city water study came to that conclusion. What the city needs is money to help it "firm up" its existing water rights - in other words, process that water and make it ready for municipal use. Part of the annexation agreement includes funding from Steamboat 700 to firm up existing city water rights.

- The development will exacerbate existing traffic problems.

Let's first pretend that Steamboat Springs has a traffic problem. Provided we accept that Routt County will continue to grow, so will the traffic problem. The Colorado Department of Local Affairs estimates that Routt County's population will swell from 22,980 in 2008 to 44,708 in 2035 - about the same time that Steamboat 700 build-out would be complete. Would we prefer that increasing traffic be generated by new development in Milner, Hayden, South Routt and Craig, or that new traffic be generated by a close-in development that will provide millions of dollars for U.S. 40 improvements? Those improvements will be necessary no matter what. In Steamboat 700, we have a developer who is agreeing to help pay for the work. That won't happen with other developments.

It's also notable that entities including the Routt County Board of Commissioners, Steamboat Springs School District, Yampa Valley Housing Authority and Steamboat Springs Planning Commission have voiced their support for the annexation of Steamboat 700.

Finally, consider this: What happens if Steamboat 700 isn't approved? What if the developers don't come back to the table, where they ostensibly would be asked to provide even more? Would we, as a community, be satisfied with 35-acre parcels and 20 or so mansions on the land we've designated as our future residential growth area? Would county-approved land preservation subdivisions be preferable to a well-planned community of diverse dwelling units, including apartment complexes and condominiums?

For many, Steamboat 700 represents the fear of the unknown, and that's why we have a sound annexation agreement in place to protect the residents of Steamboat Springs. To that end, annexation approval is not a blanket approval for the development. All aspects of the development still must go through the city's development review and approval process.

For many others, Steamboat 700 represents change, which is always difficult to embrace. But rest assured that Steamboat Springs and Routt County will change, and it will grow, whether or not Steamboat 700 is approved. The difference is that we likely won't ever again have this much say in how we grow and how we change. We could be the next Roaring Fork Valley. Or we could be different, and we could maintain the community character we hold in such high regard.

Comments

steamboatsprings 5 years, 2 months ago

Thank you for a well thought out opinion on Steamboat 700. This is not an easy choice but I am certain that if we don't the growth will still happen, fewer of our friends, teachers, service workers and nurses that earn a place in our community everyday will be able to live here and we will have the same problems to deal with without a funding source. I am thankful that our council, community and city staff has worked so hard to make the annexation agreement as good as possible. I never thought I would support this but after extensive thought I believe it is the best path for our community.

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 2 months ago

How about answering the #1 question and major objective of the WSSAP: that SB 700 will not really provide any affordable housing.

And shame on the paper for saying that SB 700 land could end up as 20 mansions. That is just stupid fear mongering. At least some of those 35 acre lots would request annexation, while they might not be able to pay as much for infrastructure as the SB 700, they could still be developed. And the value of mansions on other lots would be reduced in terms of a 35 acre estate, but increased in terms of being able to be developed as subdivisions. So there would be consistent pressure for 35 acre lots to be annexed and developed.

SB 700 is basically an all in bet. It was never expected that the land to the west in the WSSAP would be presented to the City as one annexation.

If the SB 700 developers do it right then it could really nice having it all following one coherent plan.

If the SB 700 developers get it wrong then the whole housing future of SB becomes a mess.

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goremtn 5 years, 2 months ago

LFTO-after that 4-part series in the P&T in August on the collapse of the local real estate market,lots of locals were PO'd and I think it is hardly the case to suggest that the paper is in the bag for 700 because of catering to the dollar signs from real estate ads....most of the time the journalism doesn't really help with any boosterism.

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Paul Hughes 5 years, 2 months ago

Thanks, Pilot/Today, for an excellent, thoughtful, reasoned analysis of this issue. I am amazed that some of the same people who voted to adopt the West of Steamboat plan in 1999 are now against its implementation via Steamboat 700. Perhaps they voted for the plan because they thought it would never actually happen?

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Scott Ford 5 years, 2 months ago

Steamboat Pilot/Today - good overview of the key issues associated with the proposed annexation. I think this is an important debate to be occurring in the community at this stage.

We need, however, to keep in mind that the responsibility to make this decision presently rest squarely on the shoulders of City Council. Be one opposed or in favor of the proposed annexation agreement at this stage in the process is mute. Our challenge is to keep the rancor amongst ourselves to a minimum. It is an unnecessary distraction that likely does more harm than good.

Our collective charge to every member of City Council must be to do their very best. We need them to do the hard work associated with their fiduciary and due diligence responsibilities. They need to approach this decision knowing that the "buck" absolutely stops with them. Using the best information available and their personal judgment they need to be very clear why they are making their decision. Does this agreement accomplishing the goals of the West Steamboat Springs Area Plan (WSSAP)? If not, what compromises and trade-offs have been made? Is it folly to try to make the ideal the real?

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aichempty 5 years, 2 months ago

Are we to believe that the same electorate that supported President Obama so overwhelmingly last November is incapable of making the right decision regarding a new subdivision?

Come on, folks.

Either the people know best, or they're idiots. Pick a position and go with it.

Don't I remember something about a local outcry when a 9-member Supreme Court picked the President of the United States? Why should a 7-member city council be given the same kind of politically motivated power?

When it's about putting money into private pockets using taxpayer assets, shouldn't the taxpayers have the right to make the decision?

This is not about providing apartments for nurses and teachers to live in. If it was, the developers would have already laid out plans for the apartment complex that would be rent-controlled to provide housing for police officers, fire fighters, nurses, teachers, and others who provide a direct benefit to the rest of us.

Every little child who has been to the park knows that when you throw bread on the water, the big ducks eat first. This is pretty much the same, except the ducks expect us to furnish the water too.

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freerider 5 years, 2 months ago

Brent , I'd like to see you run an article detailing the traffic solution . And I would like to see a detailed map of how the new construction is going to handle 5 or 6 thousand more cars and trucks in the bottleneck . That way the entire community can see what's really going on. You are saying the 700 farce is not going to create a traffic problem . I've been to the 700 farce meeting's and nobody has an answer for the traffic problem. So far it's only been lip service. There is no way what they have proposed is going to work. Maybe you should read your own paper once in awhile. Just a few days ago you ran an article saying city council has not come up with a solution . And for the pilot to even suggest that there is no traffic issue at stake is pathetic. This article is an insult to anybody that has an I.Q. over 50

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Duke_bets 5 years, 2 months ago

freerider - Where is all this traffic coming from? I've stated it several times. The actual population of Steamboat is down compared to 10 years ago. Routt County is up, but Steamboat is down. What new jobs will be available to cause this massive population increase? Growth will likely take place in the outlying areas. Just like it has for the past decade.

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Scott Ford 5 years, 2 months ago

Hi Duke_Bet I am not too sure the population has shrunk in the immediate Steamboat Springs area. In reviewing the IRS master file for the three (3) core zip codes in the Steamboat Springs area - the number of returns filed in 2000= 8,147. The number of returns filed in 2007=9,584. This represents a 17.6% increase in returns of folks that can best be described as full-time residents. Now "returns" do not equate exactly to households, but close enough for this discussion. On average each household is comprised of 2.4 people.

I did a quick query of the zip codes in the outlying communities (Clark, Oak Creek, Yampa, and Hayden) and the number of returns filed in these areas in 2000 = 2,109. In 2007, the number was 2,473 or 17.3%. This is essentially identical to the increase in returns the 3 zip codes associated with the immediate Steamboat Springs area had. Although data gets a bit fuzzy around the edges, for the purpose of this discussion the increase in population in three zip codes associated with the immediate Steamboat Springs area in the 8 year period ending 2007 was almost 4 times the number in the county zip codes. (1,437/364=3.9).

Since I am always interested in learning of new data sources - is there a data source that supports the decline in population you referenced? If so, could get me pointed toward it? THXS!

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boater1 5 years, 2 months ago

Scott, saying this land could end up a 35 acre ranches is not fear mongering, it's a strong reality! the 700 has conceded & costs so much at this point, if this doesn't pass, then they are either taking the easy path and making 35 acre lots or selling it off to another developer. you can bet that next devolpper knew what happpened and will not try anything but 35 acres lots. in the end bussiness transctions are about return on investment. the danny's group is not going to keep coming back for another beating. thankyou sir, may i have another does not fly in the real world.


if this does not pass then developemnt WILL be built farther out with longer commute time & just as much traffic.

jobs? how many man are out of work in this town from construction??? how many jobs will be created by the construction project? there are alot of your jobs for all those locals who need it the most and a hoping & praying they can score something, anything at the ski area this winter.

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1999 5 years, 2 months ago

whats so wrong with 35 acre ranchettes?

FYI.......the present developer is already working on selling the project to 5 or 6 other developers.

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Duke_bets 5 years, 2 months ago

Scott - Chad James had the same response. The issue is that it's nearly 2010 and your numbers are from 2007. Check out 2008 and projections for 2009. 2008 was below the 9,584 reported for 2007. 2009 will most likely continue that trend.

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steamboatbusiness 5 years, 2 months ago

  1. For the comment on the "developer already working on selling the project to 5 or 6 other developers", keep your rumor mongering in check. If the annexation is approved, the lots will sell to multiple developers building a master planned community, under direction and specific contract with the master planners, to match the WSAAP directives. ALL developers inside the annexation will build the property as per the annexation agreement in line with the WSAAP plan. This is not something new and scary like you make it sound.
  2. For all of you who comment, how long have you lived in this community? How did you come to be in this community and where do you live? I have been here 10 years and live on the mountain side of town. For me to deny other people the opportunity to come to live in this community under the same circumstances is just plain arrogant. For all you naysayers who say you should be allowed to live in town, but you don't want anyone else moving here, what makes you so special?
  3. If you deny the growth patterns statistics of Routt County, perhaps you would vote for an Amendment to the Constitution to create a society like China where families are restricted in size to one child per family. Seriously, check your facts and then think outside your personal bubble. You seem to me the type of people who would think buying property insurance would have been a good idea AFTER your house has burnt down.
  4. The people who are anti Residential Development (which has not been addressed to date by the City as opposed to Resort & Luxury Development), are actually the ones who will complain the most when our community matches Vail and Aspen where all the wealthy live in the community or own vacant 2nd homes, and all the people who service them have a minimum commute of 30 minutes. And for those of you who have written in some of these blogs that people should just suck it up and rent, buy deed restricted property, or HAVE to do the commutes, how socialist and anti American of you!

THINK ABOUT IT PEOPLE. Truly look at the big picture of what you are saying. Too many comments posted here are uninformed and/or shortsighted and I am really disappointed at the ignorance and lack of intelligent thought going into some of these comments (not just in this thread, but over the Pilot on S700). If you have questions, go to the developers and ask them. They are not hiding, they have been throwing themselves at the public to try to educate you. The Annexation agreement is on the City website. Rather than spend all your time blogging about things that don't even exist in the Annexation Agreement or that are already addressed, why not just read the document?

The Declaration of Independence states all Americans have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. ALL Americans, not just the ones who can afford second homes at the base area and downtown.

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