Steamboat Springs City officials said Tuesday that before moving forward with economic development ideas, they first should set goals and parameters for how to best put those ideas into action.
Steamboat Springs City Council did not delve into specific economic development policies Tuesday night in Centennial Hall, discussing instead whether to meet with a consultant who could help the process move forward in a clear direction. Economic development, and how to stimulate the local business environment in a down economy, has been a heightened focus of the City Council for the past two months.
Consensus was reached Tuesday to ask Roger Good, who sits on economic development boards for Steamboat Springs and Routt County, to meet with council members and potentially act as a facilitator during a City Council retreat Jan. 13. A more in-depth, policy-driven discussion of economic development initiatives is planned for that retreat.
“There’s a lot of good ideas being thrown around, but I feel like the seven of us are sort of like the blind leading the blind,” City Council President Cari Hermacinski said Tuesday. “I don’t think we’re being very effective right now.”
Ideas on the table include a formalized business incentive program, micro-loans or grants to boost start-ups and entrepreneurs, a clarified noise ordinance, infrastructure improvements to help technology industries, continued promotion of bicycle-friendly initiatives and events, and more.
Stephen Caragol took the opportunity to ask City Council about challenges he’s been facing with signage for Steamboat Moxie Home Consignments & Design, which he opened with his wife, Michelle, on Shield Drive in a space formerly occupied by Sears. Caragol asked whether he can post temporary signs to advertise the business while permanent signs are on order and what kind of lighting is allowed for large, permanent signs. City Council directed planning staff to continue working with the Caragols and generally agreed that flexibility could be given to sign code regulations while Moxie’s permanent signs are designed and ordered.
Other highlights from Tuesday’s council meeting included:
■ City Council strongly rejected the idea of selling naming rights for city facilities — ranging from ski jumps at Howelsen Hill to the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs to city parks — as a revenue source. Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord floated the idea to City Council, noting that Boulder began seriously looking at naming rights this month, but heard a resounding “no” in response.
“I think it would further erode the sense of community that brings people into town,” Councilwoman Meg Bentley said. “It rewards disconnected ego-maniacs.”
■ City Council approved the rezoning of a 1.4-acre parcel at Burgess Creek Road and Storm Meadows Drive to allow higher-density development on the site near the base of Steamboat Ski Area. The zone change, from Residential Estate-1 to Resort Residential-1, allows an increase in density from about 10 people to about 200.
Residents Bill Jameson and Bill Moser strongly opposed the zoning change, citing potential “life safety issues” because of a lack of secondary access to areas up Burgess Creek Road. They argued that increasing the site’s density would increase the chances of a road blockage that could prevent emergency vehicles from reaching homes.
Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Ron Lindroth said that while secondary access is an issue for the mountainside area accessed by winding roads, the up-zoning of that particular site would not by itself tip the scales “from un-dangerous to dangerous.” Rather, Lindroth said, potential development of the parcel could open the door for discussion of secondary access and potential shared costs from several developers, not just one.
City Council approved the up-zoning in a 4-1 vote. Councilman Walter Magill was absent Tuesday and Councilman Kenny Reisman stepped down from that item’s discussion and vote. Bentley opposed the up-zoning and criticized her colleagues for, she said, not giving adequate weight to the rights of longtime property owners in the area.