Steamboat Springs It was difficult to identify any winners after Steamboat Springs City Council's meeting with residents of West Acres Mobile Home Park on Tuesday.
The residents were granted what City Council President Loui Antonucci described as a mere "stay of execution," a developer was left befuddled and council members still are stuck in the middle of a quandary with no comfortable answers in sight.
The meeting was dramatic, at least, with no shortage of emotional pleas and political wrangling. The "angry residents of West Acres Mobile Home Park," as spokesman Tom Williams introduced himself and his neighbors, came to Centennial Hall to discuss their opposition to the planned New Victory Highway. Ultimately, City Council directed its attorneys to determine whether its contracts will allow them to freeze the project while members continue to hash out issues.
The road - which is slated to be constructed and financed by a partnership of the city, Routt County and the private developer Overlook Park - would cross greenbelts associated with the mobile home park on its way to the planned Overlook Park project and the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation.
The road has long been identified as a necessary public infrastructure upgrade to provide parallel road capacity to U.S. Highway 40 and accommodate growth and affordable housing development in western Steamboat.
"We thought the key to creating that affordable housing was to build public infrastructure with public money," Antonucci said.
The residents are involved in a legal battle with the city to prevent construction of the road or receive $400,000 in compensation. The city's legal argument is that it negotiated the road alignment with the mobile home park's owner and that the residents have no legal standing in the matter.
"It makes us feel like we are less than residents of the city of Steamboat Springs because we don't own the land beneath our homes," Williams said.
West Acres tenants argue that the greenbelts were dedicated to the residents of the park rather than its owner, and that the city's condemnation of the property and construction of the road violates the public trust doctrine.
"It seems to me the whole purpose of greenbelts is not to build on them," said Dan Armstrong, who grew up in the mobile home park.
Residents also expressed concerns about safety, noise and environmental issues. Many asked why the "road to nowhere" needs to be constructed at all, noting that neither Overlook Park nor Steamboat 700 has been approved.
"Isn't it prudent to have something approved before a road is built?" Williams said. "Is it typical for the city to put up money for a private development? It seems to me the city is putting the cart before the horse."
The city has allocated $1.3 million for New Victory Highway, and Routt County has pledged $500,000. Overlook Park is required to pay for 9 percent of the road from Downhill Drive to their property and 100 percent of the cost on their land. According to a cost-sharing agreement, Overlook Park also was responsible for design and engineering costs and executing a contract for the road's construction.
Reached by phone after council's meeting with the West Acres residents, Overlook Park representative Norbert Turek confirmed that Duckels Construction has submitted the low bid for the project and that he planned to begin construction this fall. While council members ended up agreeing there was no rush to build the road, the legal question of whether the city has the authority to halt it was left unanswered.
"Right now they have the right to commence construction and get 91 percent of the cost from the city," City Attorney Tony Lettunich said.
Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski, however, said she thinks the cost-sharing agreement is valid only after Overlook Park is approved.
Turek was not at the meeting but listened over the phone. Afterward he said he was "thrown for a loop." Turek, who represents Overlook Park's out-of-state owner, said the development has been held up since 2004 because of the city's insistence that New Victory Highway be constructed.
"I don't know what to do next," Turek said Tuesday night. "As of this morning, I thought the whole city was behind the project. : I honestly don't know what conversation I'm going to have with the city (today)."
Turek disagreed that the New Victory Highway is a "road to nowhere." He said it is a regional transportation necessity regardless of what development occurs in western Steamboat.
"If everyone has to be sitting at the table at the same time agreeing, a bypass will never get constructed," Turek said. "If the road could go somewhere else, I would put it somewhere else. It's going to be really awful for the people in the mobile home park, but in theory it's going to be a benefit to a lot of other people."
Displeasure also was expressed toward mobile home park owner Charlie Williams, who negotiated a deal with the city, received $200,000 in compensation, simultaneously sold 11 acres to Overlook Park and reportedly never told his tenants what was going on. When asked why the residents weren't suing Charlie Williams rather than the city, attorney Charles Grassby said only that it is a complex and highly unusual legal matter and that he thinks the residents have a better case against the city.