Planning Commission supports 700

Commissioners vote, 4-2, send annexation on to Sept. 29 date with City Council

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— Planning Commissioner Karen Dixon hailed the Steamboat 700 proposal Thursday night as a "framework for concentrated, dense, smart growth" as she made the successful motion clearing a path for the creation of more than 2,000 new homes just outside the city's western boundary.

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission voted, 4-2, to recommend approval of the annexation ordinance for the long-debated development. Steamboat 700 now moves on to a first reading of an ordinance before Steamboat Springs City Council on Sept. 29, with a second and final reading scheduled for Oct. 13.

Commissioner Jason Lacy seconded Dixon's motion. The dissenters were Vice Chairman Richard Levy and Cedar Beauregard, with commission chairwoman Kathi Meyer absent.

Levy said he thinks the fiscal neutrality promised to residents within the existing city limits is far from certain and the original West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan never anticipated that 3,600 homes would be built in the overall area as is now anticipated.

"You can look at two baseball teams and read the bating averages, but that doesn't tell you who will win the game," Levy said. "I don't know if I truly understand (the proposal) and know what the outcomes are."

However, Dixon said, in her mind, the Steamboat 700 proposal met all the criteria for approval.

"Not only is it compatible with the existing residential neighborhoods in west Steamboat and the county, it will provide great benefit to them," she said, "including parks, open space, a grocery store and other neighborhood retail : (Yampa River) Core Trail connection and the necessary impetus for brand new schools."

Lacy said he continues to have concerns about fiscal neutrality and traffic issues but that he thinks the advantages of the project outweigh the disadvantages, particularly in the areas of affordable housing creation and transit.

"Do we have a perfect project? Probably not," Lacy said. "Do we have an agreement that will benefit the greater community? There's no doubt in my mind we do."

Beauregard and Levy felt strongly that any approval for Steamboat 700 should include triggers tied to the traffic bottleneck on the west side of downtown at 13th Street. Levy acknowledged that not all future traffic increases at the bottleneck could be attributable to Steamboat 700 residents. However, he argued that shouldn't preclude the city from putting restraints on the platting of new lots there, if traffic at the stoplight at the entrance to downtown reaches a crisis sate.

Beauregard said the sheer size of Steamboat 700 makes it more than the community is ready for.

"I'm afraid we're going to need a full-blown (highway) bypass, and I don't even want to guess what that would be - hundreds of millions of dollars," he said. "This feels like a great boulder we're pushing off a cliff - there's no way to stop it."

City Public Works Engineer Laura Anderson reminded the commissioners that one recent traffic study revealed that of 27,000 daily vehicle trips through the bottleneck, only about 7,000 to 8,000 are traveling all the way from the east side to the west side of Steamboat Springs. The destination for the rest is downtown, and thus a bypass would only address a minor portion of the traffic issues.

Commissioner Brian Hanlen suggested that Steamboat residents should examine their own driving habits before blaming Steamboat 700 for existing traffic problems.

"Throughout the years, the city has paid for study after study that comes to the same conclusion - locals create the majority of traffic on Lincoln (Avenue) and Highway 40," Hanlen said. "Until we change our own habits versus expecting someone else to fix our self-created problem, the problem will continue to be exacerbated."

Dixon said she thinks Steamboat 700, with traditional neighborhood design standards endorsed by the commission earlier in the evening, gives Steamboat its best chance to avoid the ills of old school suburban design.

"It would be far worse on the environment in the long run if we annexed this one small chunk at a time," Dixon said. "I consider it fortunate that we have an opportunity to get control of it all at once and to be able to master plan it and ensure smart growth."

Hanlen agreed.

"I won't sugarcoat this site. No matter how you look at this project, this is sprawl," he said. "But I believe dense development and intelligent land use policies overcome that fact so this won't be like its ubiquitous suburban cousin."

Hanlen went as far as saying that in time, Steamboat 700 will make the rest of the city look ill-considered by comparison.

"This project, if approved, will employ land strategies that should be the envy of the rest of the city," he said. "Should we not recognize the potential irony for Steamboat 700, by the time it's built out, to be a better product than the existing city?"

Comments

Fred Duckels 5 years ago

Cedar, I think that we are subscribing to the congestion philosophy that promotes chaos, so we can look to the government to solve our problems. Our social engineers are using the victim role to get grants and further their empire. If we took an active part in solving our problems with traffic, would the grant mill find tougher sledding? My guess is, that it would. If the 700 stepped up and proposed to build a first class bypass, my guess is that the powers would turn it down. We have met the enemy and it is us.

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addlip2U 5 years ago

Bring on the petition!
I have the right to vote on this issue too!

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CedarBeauregard 5 years ago

Hello Fred,

I want to thank you for being so engaged in the community.

One thing you blogger s might like to know about Fred is that he skies more days than anyone I know and when he's out its all bumps all day..

Cedar

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aichempty 5 years ago

So far, we had a courthouse built with County reserve money that didn't have to be built using County taxpayer dollars, and now we have people being laid off as a result.

We have a million dollar air terminal that never served a single commecial flight at Bob Adams field.

Now we have SB700.

The "larger community" that would be served by SB700 is the community that will make real estate commissions and some new people who will never get stuck paying for the infrastructure improvements that the City must make to allow this thing to happen.

This whole thing is a Ponzi scheme where the developers and realtors and imaginary future residents will get the benefit of expenses that will be paid by today's residents and taxpayers.

Like I posted elsewhere, if the SB700 developers want to pay the whole cost and make the money back selling real estate in the new development, good for them. I'd welcome it. It's obvious that they intend to make money on the City's back and get part of their development expenses (the offsite expense required to improve US 40, water and sewer capacity, and all those things) paid for by city taxpayers. Let this go through, and the City will end up going bankrupt or levying a property tax on existing homes to make up the deficit and pay the interest on the municipal bonds and other "creative financing" schemes required to fund it.

I'm not against the development. I'm for the developers spending the money to pull it off. They need to do like the rest of us have done and pay their own way. What's wrong with that?

Nobody involved in this scheme has the best interest of current residents at heart. Let the developers obtain financing to cover the whole cost, and then let the current City residents vote for it.

It's time for a City property tax. It's needed to cover City expenses. Either that, or some "needs" must change to fit reality. SB700 is not something that fits current reality if it's going to create a demand for the City to spend extra money in advance of tax revenues from the new development.

City participation is out of the question at this time. People have to face reality. The developers can either fund it 100% or wait until better economic times and City tax revenues make it possible.

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John Rogers 5 years ago

This is just the kind of groth that Steamboat needs......jobs, homes and YES more people.Let the town grow,if you build.. yeah someone has to pay for it....the days of OUR small dusty street cowtown are goin away .....its 2010 in 3 mo and we should look to the future of this wonderfull place we live in .....AND THERES ROOM FOR MORE ....let the tree huggin.. money grubbin people...you know who you are... say what they will but from someone who has struggled to live here for 13 yrs now ...i say IF YOU BUILD IT THEY WILL COME ......and we need to make the room...LONG GONE are the days of Steamboat being a snobby kinda place ..the people w/all the money SHOULD NOT GET TO make all the choices. AND ....to the people who voted last nigt ......WAY TO GO !! Brian&Karen ......my heart and soul understand what you are seeing in all of our futures and KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!!!

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Fred Duckels 5 years ago

Cedar, I share your concern for the traffic fiasco. It is beyond my comprehension how we are going to make Lincoln handle traffic for the next century. If we build a bypass it will be over staffs dead body. I didn't think staffs job was to set policy, under the freedom of information act I was informed that no decision had been made as to any alternatives. I wonder who is really running the show over there. Laura, any recent survey is invalid because of the economy, I dont believe that we have any information from peak periods during a good economy. How anyone can defend the present scenario with all it's deficiencies and propose no changes for the future is ridiculous. Construction starts Wednesday,and if we encounter any problems we can assume that we are the ones at fault. Cedar, I agree completely but I don't think 700 has any liabailiaty here, in the past CDOT was prepared to build a by pass and the city cancelled, what do you do?

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justice4all 5 years ago

Hanlen's statement "will make the rest of the city look ILL CONSIDERED" is a slap in the face to everyone that loves the town the way it is. Shame on you, Hanlen , and those that feel that this and any other developement will make our town better. Again, I ask , where will this additional population work???? Again, I say and I feel most agree with me, If you do not love our valley the way it is---JUST LEAVE OUR VALLEY AND FIND A PLACE THAT IS WHAT YOU WANT AND IS ALREADY THE WAY YOU WANT IT TO BE!!!!!!!!!!!

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Fred Duckels 5 years ago

If Danny stepped up and proposed to build a bypass he would be turned down, but the city would want the money instead. By sundown the first day the carcass would be picked clean by social engineers, and special interests looking for others to pull their weight. We have a cadre of vultures in the community circling for just such a windfall. Traffic problems are the least of concerns for these folks. They are interested in intercepting any loose transportation funds. If the county should be successful on their big grant, watch the parasites weasel to share in the windfall.

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addlip2U 5 years ago

Fred, what makes you think that "Danny would step up and build the by pass"?

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addlip2U 5 years ago

Fred- my understanding is that you don't live in the city of Steamboat Springs, you will NOT be affected by the cost passed on to the residents of the city!!

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 12 months ago

Most of the 700 critics wonder about the traffic problems, and rightfully so. How do we handle a four lane highway dumping onto Lincoln when it wont handle the present two lanes? The city is calling for an emergency vehicle ? at the bottleneck, only as an afterthought. Any effort to suggest solutions is likely to get traction over staffs dead body. No one within a mile of city hall is willing to admit that we have a traffic problem. An open records request indicates that no options have been eliminated. With the 700 proposal anyone with curiosity at all, is going to want to know where we are headed. This leaves the ball in the cities court, what the hell is going on? All suggestions go into the wastebasket and the city denies that we have a problem. I would like to know what the plan is, if there is one. To make an intelligent decision on the 700, everyone in town deserves an answer. At this point, we have the blind leading the blind. If we are all to ride bicycles, this should be known so we can act accordingly.

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CedarBeauregard 4 years, 12 months ago

I think your absolutely right Fred.

My frustration lies in the fact that City staff is ok with all the unknowns and the overall acceptance that its ok to let our town reach a state of traffic rating F. (F is a state of not moving). Can you think of a better way to reduce our rating in Ski Magazines than to create a situation where tourists our missing there flight home while sitting in 45min of standstill traffic. I did this in Kauai Hawaii last winter and its not my idea of a vacation.. Please see the link.. It shows how to much traffic can effect a small tourist town like ours. They to have a single loop road like our single Hwy 40. To fix it they are looking at something like a $250 million dollar road.

I don't think it matters who pays for the solution as much as it does that we have a solution in place long before we need one. And if that solution itself is to hard to decide on or to much to stomach, than that is a something we need to decide now...... Because its not going to get any easier..

So I think we absolutely need to look at the traffic impacts of annexation on Steamboat East of 13th street. (The staff report doesn't even acknowledge they exist). And come up with a best alternative solution to those impacts.

After not before all the hard decisions have been made can we look at whether or not to annex or not....

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Martha D Young 4 years, 12 months ago

Aichempty, Fred and Cedar: Your perspectives on the Steamboat 700 and Highway 40 traffic issues are the best! Is there any way logical, planful people like you can persuade City Council to put on the brakes regarding Steamboat 700 until the traffic and infrastructure problems are solved? The timing the the "resurfacing" of Lincoln Avenue and the above debate is ironic. How can we hold CDOT responsible for its ridiculous decisions regarding Highway 40?

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 12 months ago

Marthalee, This is a problem that will come into play regardless of the 700 status, they are the only ones willing to ante up to solve anything. 700 will do more to slow the need for improvements than any other possibilities. CDOT will probably not enter the picture unless the situation renders this federal highway unusable. The 700 development west of town will finally bring retail to the area, and relieve the need to run the gauntlet up Lincoln. It will also generate sales tax to help solve inevitable problems locally. Cedar's article on Hawaii shows how hard and impossible it is to stop growth. I think it shows how impractical it is to settle for a very low level of service on Lincoln. This will make future decisions extremely expensive and difficult. We have been passing the buck for decades and have yet to recognize the possibility of a problem. At present it seems that we are assuming that traffic on Lincoln will not increase in the future. We seem willing to take, in my opinion, a ridiculous gamble with no backup. Where is plan B? Where is plan A? 700 is the result of 15 years of planning, has anyone ever assembled transportation users to plan for the future? If this involved lodging, restaurant, retail, and recreation interests this snub would result in all hell breaking out. There must be something in the water around here.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 12 months ago

Marthalee, CDOT is not involved in decisions, they honor our wishes as much as they can. We have met the enemy and he is us.

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aichempty 4 years, 12 months ago

It's called lithium, Fred.

Lincoln avenue is too narrow. There are no good alternatives available for widening it or providing bypass routes that won't require destruction of homes and businesses.

Obviously, people who work near the ski area and live out west have to pass through town to get to work. Our problem is that if SB700 is supposed to provide housing solutions, it's on the wrong side of town.

Seems like an obvious step would be to survey employers and determine where their employees live, and then figure out if annexing something on the side towards 131 wouldn't make more sense than SB700. Turning Haymaker into a mobile home park would be an immediate step to reduce traffic and increase affordable housing.

So, there are solutions available, but the will to implement them is lacking.

Craig actually has a pretty good system in place to reduce traffic congestion. Their one-way west on US 40 and one-way east coming the other way makes a lot of sense. Why couldn't Yampa Avenue be turned into a dedicated one-way east and Oak Street into a dedicated one-way west with no lights at all? Even putting elevated roadways along those routes for the bypass would make sense, but the extra expense could probably not be covered.

Somebody's going to have to sacrifice to make things better out there.

Yeah, right. What was I thinking?

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 12 months ago

John Eastman seems to be the only one at city willing to discuss options, this is very important if we are to make intelligent decisions. Solutions will not be limited by small thinking if they are to be successful, we must get a game plan to move ahead. Our present direction, if any, needs input and should encompass a major effort to avoid tunnel visioin. Ideology must be tempered with reality.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 12 months ago

Cedar, The city refuses to admit a problem on Lincoln so how can 700 be drug in? Lincoln's problems will continue to increase regardless of the status of 700. Jobs will bring traffic, and the source is irrelevant, not having 700 will put the burden completely on the community.

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CedarBeauregard 4 years, 12 months ago

Question for Walter Magills Video?

How can you come to the conclusion that SB 700 is improving our traffic problems in the future. All the hwy 40 improvements simply mitigate SB 700 own traffic impacts to that section of road. They are not adding additional capacity beyond what is needed to accommodate there own traffic placed on that section of road. The baseline increase in regional traffic you mention will neither go away or be accommodated by SB 700. In fact staffs best guess is that those sections will stay above an E traffic rating. SB 700 in no way will improve the traffic ratings on Hwy 40 up to 13th st. Furthermore Nothing is being done east of 13th street. The annexation agreement has SB 700 carrying its own weight up to the real problem which is main street at which point all of the current residences have to deal with and accommodate SB 700 traffic. When you consider that SB 700 is doing nothing East of 13th and simply carrying there own weight West of 13th I see no "improvements" to our traffic problem.. But actually quite the opposite..

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CedarBeauregard 4 years, 11 months ago

hi Fred,

My frustration lies in the false notion that SB 700 will actually improve traffic problems.

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danny 4 years, 11 months ago

Cedar, In comparison to how bad it will get if we push more of our workforce out of town, not locate services in the west end of town like a grocery store, office space, shopping, daycare, schools, parks, etc.. and providing transit service, bike lanes, and connection to the core trail it will get worse. The City has no plan or funding to deal with the problem today. So far the only thing they have done is to buy a bus and put a transit stop in Craig. By fixing the intersection at 129 and widening from 129 to 13th we fix part of the problem. There are obviously a number other problems that need to be addressed but by concentrating growth instead of spreading it throughout the county we are doing more to mitgate the impacts of growth on traffic then is possible any otherway.
With the funding provided by Sb700 the community should be able to leverage more funds from the State or directly from Congress. The Annexation agreement stipulates the improvements must be done to continue various levels of development. So, if we can't find additional funds to get the improvements completed then development in SB700 stops. It(growth) will then continue throughout the county and impact our roads more again. SB700 doesn't solve all the traffic problems, it will take Community Will to address the entire problem but SB700 is an opportunity for a partner to solve part of the traffic problem.

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