Fact check: Steamboat 700 traffic op-eds contained errors

Let’s Vote, Good For Steamboat groups each wrote misleading statements

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■ Learn more about the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation from the Steamboat Pilot & Today by clicking here.

■ Learn more about the Let’s Vote issue committee, opposing the Steamboat 700 annexation, on the Web at https://letsvoteno.com.

■ Learn more about the Good For Steamboat committee, supporting the Steamboat 700 annexation, on the Web at www.good4steamboat.com.

■ Learn more about plans for recommended traffic improvements on U.S. Highway 40 on the west side of Steamboat Springs at www.us40west.com/.

— Two op-ed pieces published in Sunday’s Steamboat Pilot & Today included errors and misleading statements while also presenting valid opposing views about transportation issues related to the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation.

The newspaper began Sunday a series of weekly opinion pieces from the Let’s Vote committee and the Good for Steamboat committee, which oppose and support Steamboat 700, respectively. The articles will continue through March 7. That’s the Sunday before March 9, when the city’s all-mail election deciding the fate of Steamboat 700 ends. Ballots will be sent to registered Steamboat Springs voters between Feb. 15 and 19.

Steamboat 700 has sparked local debate over a broad range of issues related to the annexation’s proposed 2,000 homes and 380,000 square feet of commercial space on a 487-acre site just west of current city limits. City planning documents cite a 20- to 30-year timeframe for development.

Sunday’s opinion pieces dealt with transportation issues. While each piece included input from several members of its committee, Steamboat 700 principal and project manager Danny Mulcahy said he was the primary author of the Good for Steamboat piece, and local Realtor Bill Moser said he was the primary author of the Let’s Vote piece.

Both pieces included incorrect statements.

Good For Steamboat

The sixth and seventh paragraphs of the Good For Steamboat piece stated:

“The annexation agreement prohibits any Steamboat 700 development until existing U.S. 40 traffic problems are fixed and the necessary highway improvements for each phase of Steamboat 700 are in place.

“The plan requires a new U.S. 40-Elk River Road intersection, fully funded by Steamboat 700.”

According to Steamboat 700’s annexation agreement with the city of Steamboat Springs, Steamboat 700 would fund 77 percent — not 100 percent — of the cost to improve the U.S. 40-Elk River Road intersection. The work would be part of the first phase of planned U.S. Highway 40 improvements identified in last year’s National Environmental Protection Act, or NEPA, study. The NEPA study estimates a $7.5 million to $8.4 million cost, in 2009 dollars, for improvements to that intersection and its immediate vicinity on U.S. 40.

According to the annexation agreement, Steamboat 700 would fully fund an intersection at U.S. 40 and Steamboat West Boulevard, the planned primary entrance to the development, before building its first unit. Steamboat 700 also would contribute $5.5 million to the city for transportation improvements before building its first unit.

But it’s inaccurate to say, as Sunday’s Good For Steamboat op-ed did, that any development is prohibited at Steamboat 700 “until U.S. 40 traffic problems are fixed.” Road improvements would be phased with development. For example, the full funding — from Steamboat 700 and other sources — for U.S. 40 improvements from Downhill Drive to Curve Court, including the Elk River Road intersection, is needed when Steamboat 700 reaches 250 dwelling units. Full funding for improvements from Curve Court to Dream Island Plaza is needed at 500 dwelling units. Steamboat 700 cannot build beyond those points until the required funding is in place, according to the annexation agreement.

Mulcahy said he was trying to convey that phasing Sunday.

“The sentence is supposed to exhibit that development is contingent upon the identified problems being fixed at the appropriate phase,” Mulcahy said. “Could it have been written better? Possibly. … I wouldn’t say that it was an overreach. I think it was worded inappropriately.”

Good for Steamboat briefly addressed Sunday the “bottleneck” of traffic on U.S. 40 at 13th Street, calling it “a legitimate concern” and stating that “Steamboat 700 is required to provide funding for the eventual solution.”

Steamboat 700 is slated to pay 25 percent of the cost for a bottleneck solution, should the city select a preferred alternative and have its share of funding available. Steamboat 700’s payment would come anytime after 800 dwelling units, upon city request.

Let’s Vote

It was inaccurate for the Let’s Vote piece on Sunday to state “the city and the county will be liable for $35,834,275 for traffic/transportation infrastructure ‘improvements.’”

The $35.8 million figure is incorrect by at least $15 million.

Let’s Vote broke the number down into three segments: $4,780,275 in the annexation agreement’s Exhibit C, Table 2; $20,179,000 in Exhibit C, Table 3; and $10,875,000 in Exhibit C, Table 3.

The $4,780,275 figure is a correct addition of listed road improvements on U.S. 40, Elk River Road and Routt County Road 42, but neither the city nor the county is listed as a funding source for those improvements.

The $20,179,000 is a correct addition of costs for three potential projects listed in Exhibit C.

But Moser acknowledged Monday that the third, $10,875,000 figure already was included in the $20,179,000 and was incorrectly added twice, creating the $35 million total.

“We made a math mistake,” he said. “We’re going to try our best not to have that happen again.”

Removing the $4.8 million and the $10.9 million leaves $20,179,000 as potential “city and/or county share” listed in Exhibit C. Those projects include about $4.3 million for a Slate Creek connector road, about $5 million for unspecified U.S. 40 improvements and about $10.9 million for the bottleneck solution.

The annexation agreement’s Exhibit C, which lists some capital projects and estimated costs in 2009 dollars, allocates $3.6 million to Steamboat 700 for a potential $14.5 million, unspecified solution to the bottleneck. The city is listed in Exhibit C as a funding source for that project.

But using Exhibit C to determine capital costs and responsibility is questionable at best.

Exhibit C, in its entirety, details financial plans for the five metropolitan districts that would be a part of the Steamboat 700 development. City public works engineer Laura Anderson said the lists of capital projects and costs in Exhibit C are presented as examples to illustrate the feasibility of metro district financing.

For phasing and cost allocation of capital projects, Anderson and other city staff point to Exhibit F, which is a complete list of projects that defines funding sources by percentage, because dollar amounts will change over time. The city’s annexation attorney, Jerry Dahl, shares the view that Exhibit F is the controlling agreement for capital projects.

The annexation agreement also states that point.

“The Parties agree that the Capital Facilities Phasing Plan, a copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit F, shall control the timing and construction and/or dedication of capital facilities described therein,” the agreement states. It also states that Exhibit F is “the mechanism for determining when and by whom each listed capital facility must be provided.”

Dahl said Tuesday that “(Exhibit) F certainly controls the list of capital facilities that have to be built and who’s responsible for them.”

According to Exhibit F, Steamboat 700 would be required to pay 77 percent of the costs for all U.S. 40 improvements from 12th Street to Steamboat West Boulevard. The remaining 23 percent of funding for work on that corridor would come from the Colorado Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and other developments west of Steamboat.

If CDOT, the Federal Highway Administration or other developments are unable to pay their share of improvement costs to U.S. 40 or ancillary roads, Steamboat 700 must either front that share itself or halt development until it is available, according to the annexation agreement.

Routt County is not identified as a funding source in any of the capital projects in Exhibit F. In terms of transportation projects, the city is identified as a funding source in only three places: for 80 percent contributions to a total of four transit buses; and for an unspecified amount to create a Transit Master Plan.

The annexation agreement estimates a total cost of about $2 million for the buses, of which Steamboat 700 would pay about $400,000. The rest could be paid by an “anticipated grant from (the) Federal Transit Authority,” the agreement states.

The city is obligated for no other financial cost related to transportation infrastructure in Exhibit F — but other funding sources for a bottleneck solution are listed as “unknown.”

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

Karen Schulman 4 years, 8 months ago

What I cannot understand is why the vote is not open to the entire county. I live in Silver Spur and we are far more impacted than anyone in the city on this issue. We support Steamboat 700. Having a grocery store, other amenities as well as bike paths out to this area would be incredibly helpful. Try driving back and forth for just a few groceries now. It currently takes almost an hour round trip! And BTW, there won't be 5000 new residents right away. It may take 20-30 years!

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housepoor 4 years, 8 months ago

And your grocery store is 20+ years out also. A

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carlyle 4 years, 8 months ago

It seems to me that people who live in the areas most affected by 700 - Silver Spur, Heritage Park and Steamboat II - are mostly for annexation but can't vote. An amazing number of people who live on the mountain or in old town are against the project but they'd be far less affected. Housepoor's comment that a grocery store is 20+ years out also points to the inanity of many of the anti annexation crowd. Many of us who live here hope that today's snow lasts the rest of the ski season and we can be deluged with visitors and get this little tiny town up to ~25,000 people so that our restaurant and retail and lodging businesses can stay alive. I'd think a few thousand more people here on a full-time basis would help as well.

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Scott Glynn 4 years, 8 months ago

I wholeheartedly agree with Focus22. The impact of 700 on SIlver Spur, Heritage Park, and "The Deuce" are equally as important as the impact on the voters within city limits. While not included in the population, these neighborhoods represents approxiamtely 10% of the city population. Many of the anti-700 voters have asked "Where will all of these peple work?" As the undisputed growth reaches certain levels, jobs will become available. There will not be 1000 jobs sitting there for people to apply for and then buy a house. As the evolution process of build out happens, there will be market opportunities for entreprenuers to invest in the goods and services the local economy needs. Will you need a grocery store after the first home is built? Probably not, but after a phase of the development is complete, someone will see the potential and invest, creating jobs, and services. This will begat more investment and more job creation, so the ball rolls. Growth is inevitable I think that both sides agree on that. This annexation allows the City to control it and gives the entire citizenry the opportunity to be better served. Its important to remember that these neighborhoods are part of West Steamboat not East Milner.

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pitpoodle 4 years, 8 months ago

Perhaps the reason people who live in the county are not voting on the SB 700 Annexation Agreements is because they are not liable for the costs of providing water and sewer facilities for the development of the property as the city agreed to do. Cost estimates are more than $60 million according to a water and wastewater master plan update by McLaughlin Water Engineers. Or maybe county residents would like to pony up part of the needed expansion costs instead of having SB residents pay for all of it?

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housepoor 4 years, 8 months ago

“Growth is inevitable I think that both sides agree on that.” Really? Why is it inevitable? Baby Boomers are lining up to buy second homes? Construction workers moving here for the premium wage? Californians with 200% equity in their homes are selling them and paying cash for steamboat home? I don't intend to be a negative Nelly and hope we continue to grow and prosper. It's just that the size of this annexation is based on unrealistic growth projections. Our growth was fueled by the real estate bubble which may have been 10+ years in the making. Yes this is great place to live and people will still want to live here. But the reality is that fewer have the means in which to do it. The real estate crisis that started 2 years is not just a temporary setback; it’s one of those defining generational events that alter behaviors and attitudes towards real estate for a long time to come.

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pitpoodle 4 years, 8 months ago

What no takers from any country residents to help pay for the cost of providing water and sewer facilities for SB 700. How about a voluntary payment from all of you who want the gigantic subdivision? That would be just about as good as the promised payment from a voluntary real estate transfer fee that is supposed to pay for affordable housing that the city has agreed to build at more millions of dollars. Currently a real estate transfer tax is illegal in Colorado. If SB 700's voluntary fee is legally struck down, will they provide funds to build housing? No, but they will give the city more land for affordable housing. These are some of the valid reasons why people don't want this annexation agreement.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 8 months ago

It is my analysis that SB growth will be slower in the future than it was from 2000 to 2008.

I look at the demographic data and see SB as largely a white city and no success of the ski industry to attract minorities. The growth in US population is mostly due to minorities and so SB can be expected to grow less than the rest of the US.

SB, as a resort town, is a place for wealthy people to buy a second home or retire early. We saw growth from baby boomers choosing to buy here. This is not such a nice area because of snow, ice, cold and high altitude for baby boomers as they get older and less healthy. This is a place for younger baby boomers in their 50s and 60s. Thus, we are rapidly approaching the baby bust side. By the time the recession is over we will not need new supply for the boomers, the older boomers will be selling out to the younger boomers.

Contrary to the real estate columns in this paper, the local economy is not yet recovering. Tourism is looking down 5% or more. Sales volume is still at historic lows and foreclosures are increasing. We have already lost 1,000 jobs and wiped out the previous 4 years of growth. We should expect it to take more than 5 years for the local economy to return to 2007 levels.

It took this area close about 15 years to recover from the speculative bust of the 70s.

If we approve SB 700 then we should expect it to sit idle for many years. By then we will most likely see SB 700 coming to the City asking for changes and using as leverage the threat of building SB 700 as approved in 2010.

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Jeff_Kibler 4 years, 8 months ago

Scott,

As a bishop in the Church of Anthropogenic Global Hoaxing and a disciple of the Prophet Goracle, I must disagree with your analysis.

According to the tenets of my religion, Steamboat Springs will soon be the the new South Beach. The faithful will flock here for an opportunity to live and worship along the blessed new coastline.

And yes, climbing lessons are an integral part of our Sunday School curriculum.

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danny 4 years, 8 months ago

I resist posting on this forum but pitpoodle is make false statements. But I wanted to clarify his/her false statement. PITPOODLE- A Real estate transfer is not illegal just as HOA fee's are not illegal. They are Privately imposed fees (PIF). They have withstood the test of time and challenge for over 30 years in Colorado. A City cannot impose a real estate transfer fee but a private land owner can voluntarily impose one. Call your attorney, the City attorney, or Jerry Dahl (The City's special Council).

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pitpoodle 4 years, 8 months ago

Danny, A real estate transfer tax is illegal in the State of Colorado. Your volunteer real estate fee will be challenged in a court of law and will more than likely will be illegal as well. This is not HOA dues. Even your annexation agreement makes a provision for this possible outcome. It states that if it is found to be illegal, you will be required to donate more land. Please read your own language in the agreement.

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danny 4 years, 8 months ago

We added that language as a fail safe- again to make sure the existing residents were protected. We have had multiple legal opinions and so has the City as to its legality and strength. Gerry Dahl is the States leading municipal attorney and represented the City throughout the annexation proceedings and he believes it will withstand any challenge.

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greenwash 4 years, 8 months ago

The realtors are still living in a dream. Its over.... get over it.You dont need a realtor to buy/sell a home.And surely you dont need to pay 6% for something you can do yourself.

Lets run the realtors out of town and that would open 400+ condos and singe family homes up to market.

700 is smart growth BTW.

Its the realtors that are worthless.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 8 months ago

I think there is no dispute that a private landowner can volunteer to pay a transfer tax.

The big question comes up when there is a buyer and a seller that do not want to pay the voluntary transfer tax. Sure, people that want to volunteer to pay can pay, but it also would appear that anyone that didn't want to pay could not be forced to pay.

From the Colorado Constitution Article 10 - Taxpayer Bill of Rights: (8) Revenue limits. (a) New or increased transfer tax rates on real property are prohibited.

Sure SB 700 will collect it when they sell property, but there is no reason to expect that subsequent buyers and sellers will pay it.

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Scott Glynn 4 years, 8 months ago

Homeowners in the three subdivisions I mentioned do pay for City water and sewer services as part of the Steamboat II Metro district. We purchase our water from the city and augment peak use (July/August) with a community well. We also help foot the bill with the commerce we generate as consumers in the valley. Even though we aren't "in the city" we really are in the city.

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danny 4 years, 8 months ago

Scott- the assessment is attached to the land, disclosed in their preliminary title report, and listed on the closing statement. It is never imposed by the City, it ceases to be voluntary after they purchase the land. It is an encumberance on title. Land owners have the right in Colorado to require future land owners of the property to follow certain rules and guidelines; a common rule is that the land can never be developed, or the foot print can never be increased, or prohibits two story development (especially when the seller owns the property behind or adjacent. PIF's are also common. Existing residents could voluntarily impose the same conditions- they don't becasue it makes the property harder to market.

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Tubes 4 years, 8 months ago

" According to Steamboat 700’s annexation agreement with the city of Steamboat Springs, Steamboat 700 would fund 77 percent — not 100 percent — of the cost to improve the U.S. 40-Elk River Road intersection. "

77% seems like a pretty hefty and generous contribution considering this intersection was geeked long before Mulchahy came to town. That could surely be said of the rest of the proposed highway improvements and the associated contributions from the developer.

So, what happens to these EXISTING traffic issues and who's gonna chip in on the improvements if the 700 annexation gets voted down?

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sledneck 4 years, 8 months ago

Focus is right. The people in the county (west of town) are way more affected than people in the city. ............ without representation?

The grocery store issue on the west side is the tip of the iceberg. We need to continue to have gravel pits, lumber stores, concrete plants, etc, etc on BOTH sides of town so people on BOTH sides of town can AVOID going in or through town whenever possible.

A by-pass would be cool 2. " The Emerald Mt. Tunnel"! Yep, that has a nice ring to it!

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pitpoodle 4 years, 8 months ago

Danny, The fact remains that a real estate transfer tax is illegal in Colorado. With all due respect to your attorney, Gerry Dahl, he is making an educated guess that your real estate transfer fee will withstand any court challenge. It is a guess. He does not speak for any judges in the court system. Lets say we adopt the annexation and your transfer fee is ruled illegal. Chances are that it will be ( my educated guess). Then the city will bear the entire affordable housing cost at estimates of more than $40 million. I can only wonder who you think will pick up the cost.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 8 months ago

The fact that it was a condition of annexation makes a mockery of the idea that it was voluntary. The fact that there is an alternative means of giving value to the City if the tax is ruled illegal shows that it was not voluntary, but a tax agreed with the City.

It is unlike a HOA in that the collected money is not under the control of the people that paid it, but given to the City like a tax.

Nor is it like deed restrictions limiting square footage which are basically private deals of no concern to the City. Quite the opposite it is a deal with the City and illegal deed restrictions cannot legally be enforced. There are still deeds floating around that say no jews and no blacks that are obviously not enforceable.

And lawyers are paid to justify what their clients want to hear. Justice dept lawyers managed a way to decide that torture was legal. That a lawyer said it would hold up in court means little.

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