Steamboat Springs It looks as if the Steamboat Springs City Council - regardless of the outcome of the Nov. 3 election - will put Steamboat 700 to a citywide vote rather than repeal the annexation if petitioners gather enough signatures to trigger the city's referendum process.
Steamboat Springs residents Omar Campbell, Greg Rawlings, Terry Armstrong, Tim Rowse and Cindy Constantine have formed a committee known as Let's Vote to lead a petition drive to send the Steamboat 700 annexation to a public vote. The committee filed an affidavit with the city at 9 a.m. Tuesday and began collecting signatures afterward.
Steamboat 700 is a 487-acre annexation approved by the Steamboat Springs City Council last week in a 4-3 vote. It proposes about 2,000 homes and 380,000 square feet of commercial space just west of the current city limits. As of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Steamboat 700 Principal and Project Manager Danny Mulcahy had not returned a call seeking comment.
Committee members were limited in their responses to questions Tuesday. Constantine, the group's chairwoman, said the committee simply wants to ask residents, "Would you like the opportunity to vote on the recent decision made by City Council to annex Steamboat 700?"
Some say Steamboat 700 would give the city a smart place to grow, provide affordable housing and help pay for needed city improvements; others say the annexation is too large, is happening too fast and does not adequately address impacts to the city's water supplies, traffic and more.
Petitioners must collect at least 829 signatures to trigger the referendum process, but Rawlings said he expects to gather thousands. The committee has until Nov. 12 to turn in the necessary number of signatures and also will be afforded a "cure period" to fix any problems with its petition.
If the petitioners succeed, the City Council will first have the opportunity to repeal the annexation. If it doesn't repeal it, the question will go to voters in a special election likely to be held in January or February. It would be an all-mail election, like the Nov. 3 vote. As required by the annexation agreement, Steamboat 700 would pay for the election.
Although there are three contested seats in this year's City Council election, it doesn't appear that any outcome would result in a council majority that would simply repeal the annexation ordinance. Of the four council members remaining on the council, three voted in favor of Steamboat 700. The one who did not, Meg Bentley, suggested a motion to put the annexation to a public vote. No other council member made the motion. Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski, who also voted against the annexation, said she would be in favor of an election if petitioners gathered the necessary number of signatures.
"If the community goes through the hard work of getting enough signatures, I absolutely think City Council should put it on the ballot," Hermacinski said.
Hermacinski's opponent in the Nov. 3 election, Kevin Bennett, has advertised heavily in favor of putting the annexation to a vote.
City Attorney Tony Lettunich told the petition committee that petition signers need to be city residents and that they need to sign their name and print their address as it appears on their voter registration. In validating petitions, Lettunich said the city would not be overly aggressive in disqualifying signatures.
"I don't want this decided on a technicality. I want it decided on the merits," Lettunich said. "That's what's best for the community."
Even if the city verifies the petition, a third party such as Steamboat 700 could contest whether the petition is sufficient.
"Sometimes these things go to district court if there is a dispute over the number of signatures," Lettunich said.
In addition to canvassing the city with its petition, the committee also has made one available at Elk River Guns, 1320 Dream Island Plaza, during business hours. Constantine's husband, Ken, owns Elk River Guns.