Steamboat Springs resident Brock Webster walks his dog in downtown Steamboat Springs. City Council opened discussions on an ordinance that would address pedestrian, bicycle and transportation needs in new development projects.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs resident Brock Webster walks his dog in downtown Steamboat Springs. City Council opened discussions on an ordinance that would address pedestrian, bicycle and transportation needs in new development projects.

Steamboat Springs City Council cautious about Colorado Mountain College agreement

Members request development conditions before dissolving contract with college

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Elk River meeting today

City Council’s discussion Tuesday about water resources development was brief, but did include notice of a public meeting at 5 p.m. today at the Steamboat Springs Community Center to talk about the over-appropriated status of the Elk River.

Erin Light, Division 6 water engineer for the state Department of Natural Resources, said that status will be implemented for the Elk on Jan. 1. She said tonight’s meeting is intended to provide information to property owners and water users about impacts of the river’s changing status. One primary impact, she said, will be much tighter regulations for new well permits. Those who have questions but are unable to attend tonight can call Light at 970-879-0272.

Light said the Colorado Water Con­servation Board made a call on the Elk this fall, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 7, after the river’s flow rate dipped below 65 cubic feet per second. A “call” on a river can require release of water from holders of water rights that are junior to the party making the call. Light said entities including Strawberry Park Hot Springs and Marabou Ranch were affected by the call, which was triggered by the conservation board’s monitoring of the river’s flow.

Past Event

Elk River Basin discussion

  • Wednesday, December 8, 2010, 5 p.m.
  • Steamboat Springs Community Center, 1605 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs
  • Not available / Free

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— City officials nudged Colo­rado Mountain College’s proposed construction project forward Tuesday night, but they’re not ready to release the reins quite yet.

The Steamboat Springs City Council voted, 5-2, to give initial support to dissolving the city’s intergovernmental agreement with CMC. But as the college prepares to build a 50,000-square-foot classroom and administrative building on its Alpine Campus in Steam­boat Springs, council members expressed a desire to retain some control over that building, which would sit near neighborhoods filled with concerned residents who spoke in Centennial Hall about potential construction and traffic problems.

So as City Council gave initial approval to dissolving the intergovernmental agreement — which requires the college to go through the city planning process for development — the council also directed city staff to prepare a separate document that would hold CMC accountable to standards for items including landscaping, signage, road construction and sidewalk maintenance related to the new building.

A final vote on dissolving the intergovernmental agreement likely will be pushed to Jan. 4. The document detailing construction standards essentially would take the place of the agreement.

City attorney Tony Lettunich advised City Council of the no-going-back nature of dissolving the agreement, which was signed in 1997 and guided construction of a CMC residence hall.

“If the IGA is terminated, you really have little control over what the college does — they (would be) required to follow state requirements,” Lettunich said. “Under state statute, they can discuss with you what they’re going to do, but you don’t have any control over approving or not approving what they do.

“I think the city needs to identify what it’s important for CMC to commit to, and then bring that forward when you terminate this IGA,” Lettunich continued.

That work already is under way.

City planner Seth Lorson said city staff is working with CMC on issues including construction and maintenance of a sidewalk on 12th Street.

Sarah Lara, involved in program management for CMC, also noted that collaboration and said the college is more than willing to work with the city on standards for the new building. She said in requesting dissolution of the agreement — which CMC has with no other municipality in its system — CMC is asking to be treated like a school district rather than a developer.

Some residents near the college said the agreement should be kept in place.

“There is absolutely no incentive for the city to dissolve it,” Buckskin Drive resident Heather DeVos said. “What’s in there that you wouldn’t want to uphold?”

Council members Meg Bent­ley and Kenny Reisman voted against Tuesday’s initial support of the dissolution, saying the construction standards and other questions should be resolved first.

One of those questions, also debated Tuesday, is whether the Crawford Spur secondary access road should be private or public. Steamboat Springs Fire Marshal Jay Muhme recommended it be public for “fire and life safety” reasons.

Complete streets

Also drawing a crowd Tues­day was City Council’s preliminary discussion about “complete street” regulations, which would require new development projects to evaluate pedestrian access, transit, cycling and more.

The idea received praise from groups including cycling advocates and supporters of alternative transportation.

“I’m here tonight to urge you to move ahead on this in whatever way you feel is best,” said Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush, who serves on several transportation-related boards and committees. “This is an economic development tool.”

Mitsch Bush said regulation efforts improve property values and create communities that are attractive to families and young workers.

Some council members questioned the potential costs such an ordinance could create for developers. Councilman Jon Quinn asked whether it would affect single-family homeowners seeking to do a small remodel.

City engineer Janet Hruby said that question “isn’t specifically addressed” in the draft ordinance.

“The intent wasn’t that single-family homeowners would have to build a section of sidewalk,” she said. “The intent is not for individual homes so much as a streetscape.”

Hruby said those questions and others could be addressed in a formal ordinance that could enter the city approval process in January.

City Council members supported that idea.

“We’ll look forward to our Plan­ning Commission going over this with a fine-tooth comb,” City Council President Cari Hermacinski said.

Comments

John Fielding 3 years, 11 months ago

What do we gain by resisting CMC's wish to have the same relationship with our city as with every other city? We reinforce the reputation as over-controlling, uncooperative, and self serving, something people who work with multiple municipalities already recognize us as. We build the resentment and reluctance to engage from the board of directors who make decisions about which campuses will benefit from improvements.

I cannot be sure that what is reported here is sufficiently complete to make a criticism of what actually transpired, only the impression given by the headline. Jon Quinn, will you please give us a summary from your perspective?

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 11 months ago

Why does the City need to hold CMC to any standard? As if CMC would not want to keep things at a high level and it would be easy enough to ask CMC to deal with any issue of concern to the City. And even if SB CMC wasn't cooperating with the City then it would be easy enough for the City to send someone to a regional CMC board meeting and make the City's case to get whatever done.

What next? Turnabout is fair play and CMC demanding an IGA with the City to require that the City keep things nice in CMC's neighborhood?

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John Fielding 3 years, 11 months ago

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The City is reluctance to release "control" of CMC by agreeing to dissolve, with no strings attached, the accord that was voluntary to begin with. This will make CMC realize that they must become free somehow, by adversarial procedures if necessary, to protect their interests from every caprice of the ever-changing City Council.

The recent episode with the 13th St. access proposal was illustrative, CMC worked diligently with the City Staff for months at great expense to prepare what all involved agreed was the best option for the college and the community. They committed to an expenditure far greater than the less beneficial route now under consideration. It then was criticized on the basis of more subjective criteria that was not a part of the requirements they were given to comply with. Their retreat to the cheaper, less useful, "easy way out" was predictable. We are fortunate they did not take it further and commit instead to an abandonment of the Alpine Campus.

If you had the option to deal with the City as an equal, would you want to continue long in a subservient relationship?

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