Steamboat 700 Principal and Project Manager Danny Mulcahy talks about Tuesday night's vote by city council.
Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs City Council voted 4-3 late Tuesday night to approve the annexation of Steamboat 700, a project that ultimately is expected to bring about 2,000 homes, 380,000 square feet of commercial space and 4,700 residents to the western edge of the city.
For a city with a population of about 12,000 residents, Steamboat 700 is the most substantial annexation since the Mount Werner ski resort area was folded into city limits decades ago. Councilman Scott Myller, who seconded Councilman Jon Quinn's motion to approve the annexation, said the master-planned community gives the city a place to grow in a smart way.
"I think that's what makes this community special," Myller said. "We have not been hemmed in and gone the way of Aspen or Vail. I think this is a better way to annex."
Council President Loui Antonucci and Councilman Walter Magill joined Quinn and Myller in support of the annexation. Council members Steve Ivancie, Meg Bentley and Cari Hermacinski voted against it. Bentley and Ivancie failed in an attempt to voluntarily put the annexation to a citywide vote in a motion that was voted down, 2-5.
Hermacinski said she doesn't think the annexation can fulfill all the goals of the city's West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan.
"This is a big step forward," Steamboat 700 Principal and Project Manager Danny Mulcahy said after the meeting. "It's the culmination of 15 years worth of public process. ... I'm excited about moving forward. This is actually just the first step in a process that will take 20 or more years."
Build-out of the project is expected to take a minimum of 20 to 30 years. The greatest hope for Steamboat 700 is that it will provide a stock of housing to alleviate Steamboat's high housing costs and give working-class residents better opportunities to live and work in the city rather than commute from outlying areas such as Stagecoach and Hayden. The attainability of housing for Steamboat's work force was the most discussed issue during council's deliberation of the annexation proposal Tuesday.
Steamboat 700's community housing plan includes a 15-acre land dedication to the city. In tandem with the proceeds of a 0.5 percent real estate transfer tax within the development, the city will use the land to develop affordable, deed-restricted housing aimed at making 20 percent of the development permanently affordable to residents earning an average of 80 percent of the area median income.
Some council members also were concerned about whether the remaining housing in the development would be attainable for local residents, given the magnitude of infrastructure costs required in the annexation agreement. General language was crafted requiring Steamboat 700 to price a minimum of 30 percent of its homes at prices affordable to residents earning from 120 to 200 percent of the AMI. The details of the proposal, including a target average AMI, will be determined at a future date.
Some pushed for a stronger requirement that the homes be sold only to people who live or work in Routt County, but the majority of council members and the developer did not want to put deed restrictions on homes other than the subsidized units. The plan discussed Tuesday restricts pricing only, and there would be no need to qualify buyers.
During public comment at a packed Centennial Hall, nine people spoke in favor of the project, two opposed it and a few others asked questions or suggested improvements.
Supporters said Steamboat 700 was an unmatched opportunity to give the city a place to grow and a partnership to help the city pay for several improvements such as a new school, a public safety building, parks, trails, improvements to U.S. Highway 40 and retail offerings and other services that would negate the need for west-side residents to travel as often through downtown.
"Steamboat 700 may not be a perfect plan," resident Jim Gill said. "But a really, really good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. If you wait for a perfect plan, it may never hit the table."
Others said the annexation remains too flawed and hoped it would more specifically address issues such as water and sewer needs and traffic issues downtown.
"It's got too many big holes that haven't been solved," resident Bill Jameson said.
Despite council's approval, Steamboat 700 is not yet a done deal. City residents still have the opportunity to gather enough signatures to initiate the city's referendum process. Visit this story on www.steamboatpilot.com to download a memorandum written by City Attorney Tony Lettunich that describes the referendum process.
Mulcahy said he knows a referendum election is a possibility. He said it would be a shame that only city residents would have an opportunity to vote.
"This is a decision for the Yampa Valley," he said.
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