Our View: Vote ‘yes’ on Referendum A

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Editorial Board, October 2009 through February 2010

  • Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Blythe Terrell, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Michelle Garner, community representative
  • Paula Cooper Black, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— The carefully and expertly negotiated Steamboat 700 annexation agreement — already approved by City Council and the Planning Commission — offers the city a chance for smart, master-planned growth in the area we long have identified as the place for future residential expansion. With a “pay to play” structure and language requiring the developer to provide significant funding for capital facilities and infrastructure improvements while protecting existing city residents from fiscal liability, Steamboat 700 provides a rare opportunity for Steamboat Springs to grow in a measured, responsible way in the coming decades. For those reasons and many more, city residents should vote ‘yes’ on Referendum A.

This is perhaps the most important local election in a generation, if not longer, so the passionate debate surrounding Steamboat 700 and the annexation agreement is appropriate and healthy. After all, most of us care deeply about our community and its future, and that’s one reason why Steamboat Springs and Routt County are such a special place to live, work and play.

We’d like to see Steamboat remain special for generations to come, and that will require managing the inevitable growth. Make no mistake about it, today’s economic woes won’t last forever, and Steamboat will remain attractive to young families, retirees and vacationers.

Of course, we’ve known that and planned for it. The West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, adopted in 1999 after countless hours of community input, was revised in 2005 and puts forth a vision of an annexed area with affordable housing, commercial centers to provide self-sufficiency, schools and highway expansions.

In the nearly three years since Steam­boat 700 LLC purchased about 700 acres of land — only about 485 acres are part of the annexation — city staff and a negotiating team that includes one of the state’s top annexation attorneys have hammered out an agreement that achieves fiscal neutrality for existing city residents while simultaneously providing land and money for affordable housing, a new public school, and funding for significant U.S. Highway 40 improvements that will be necessary no matter where our future growth occurs. Much of that funding would come from the establishment of five metro districts within Steamboat 700.

The annexation agreement also mandates that the developer and city agree to an attainability plan — an agreement on a structure that will ensure that at least 30 percent of the free-market homes in the future development are affordable to folks who make between 120 percent and 200 percent of the area median income — before any construction begins. The annexation agreement similarly includes an anti-speculation clause to discourage and penalize people who purchase property within Steamboat 700 for the purpose of turning a profit.

Some of the most vocal opponents of the annexation agreement regrettably have reverted to misinformation in an attempt to sway voters. And why not? Such campaign tactics have proven to work time and again.

For example, opponents claim that city residents will get stuck with the bill if the development flops, sales slow or federal and state agencies such as the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration don’t provide additional funding for infrastructure projects. That’s simply not the case, and the annexation agreement makes that clear. If the funding isn’t available, the developer must front the money or halt development until such money is available. That’s the “pay to play” structure that protects us from being left with the tab.

They also claim the development is too big and that Steamboat can’t possibly support all that growth during our current economic woes. The fact remains that this development would be built during a 20- to 30-year period, if not longer. Development will occur as the free market allows it to. There simply won’t be any sudden or dramatic impacts to Steamboat Springs as a result of the annexation. This is long-term, master-planned growth and an opportunity for the city to be proactive instead of reactive — a chance to keep growth close to Steamboat and our community intact instead of the sprawl seen in other resort areas such as the Vail and Roaring Fork valleys.

Which brings us to an important but often misunderstood point. It’s essential that voters understand that approving an annexation agreement is not the same as approving development. An annexation agreement simply provides the parameters future development must stay within. Any development within Steamboat 700 must go through the city’s development review and approval process, just like any other development. This is not a green light to build 2,000 residential units. It is, however, a binding legal document that establishes big-picture requirements of the development and developer. The city would have to agree to any future changes or revisions to the annexation agreement.

Finally, we must point out that despite the acrimony surrounding the Steamboat 700 debate, we can and will survive and thrive as a community. We think upholding the City Council’s October annexation decision is the best way to hold on to the community we care so deeply about. Vote ‘yes’ on Referendum A and Steamboat 700 — not for tomorrow or next year, but for the decades to come and the future generations of residents who will reap the benefits of smart, controlled growth.

Comments

Scott Wedel 4 years, 10 months ago

Talk about misinformation!

The annexation agreement for all practical purposes does allow development. They get a zoning and as long as their proposed projects meet that zoning then the City has no right to reject the development.

It is similar to buying a residential lot in SB. If you do not ask for any variances then the City has no legal right to stop your building plans.

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John Fielding 4 years, 10 months ago

The "master planned" aspect of this proposal is to me its most important feature. I hope I'm still around to see it at completion. It will very likely be among the most desirable neighborhoods in the city. But because it is less than half the area of the WSSAP, it is now critical that our, commissioners, council, and staff assure that the additional potential annexations build compatibly on this start. A master plan for the whole area is a good idea.

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housepoor 4 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, the "MASTER PLAN" we've all seen how that has worked out at the base area

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CedarBeauregard 4 years, 10 months ago

"..... and Steamboat will remain attractive to young families, retirees and vacationers. "

Will it? I'm thinking the 45:00 wait that's projected at SB 700 build-out to get from Elk River road to the Library might deter some.

Sure at that point we will have to find a solution but how many years will that take and at what cost?

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 9 months ago

George, You seem to be one of the few willing to look ahead to impending chaos with our traffic. The special interests and ideologies in our midst will never face this fact until it is probably too late, without draconian measures. Our national economy reflects the same mindset, let's kick the can one more time.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 9 months ago

The Pilot, a vocal proponent of the annexation agreement, has reverted to misinformation as well.

Pilot- “The annexation agreement… will ENSURE that at least 30 percent of the free-market homes in the future development are affordable to folks who make between 120 percent and 200 percent of the area median income…”

That’s FALSE. For a limited time window, there will be prices in this range, but there is nothing that ensures the buyer will be in that income range. The buyers will also be investment corporations or wealthy locals taking advantage of low prices.

Pilot- “The annexation agreement similarly includes an anti-speculation clause to discourage and penalize people who purchase property within Steamboat 700 for the purpose of turning a profit.”

That’s huge overstatement. The anti-speculation clause is paltry. It only last 3 years and only the first sale (after Danny’s sale) is affected. The penalty is significant within the first year, but is less in the 2nd and insignificant in the 3rd year. Past 3 years there is no penalty at all.

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Solo 4 years, 9 months ago

The reason many of us are opposed to this Annexation Agreement is that it is a legal document with many unknowns that need to be clarified now. For example, it is stated above, “The annexation agreement also mandates that the developer and city agree to an attainability plan.” According to Robert Weiss, attorney for SB 700, “Steamboat 700 is prepared to finalize the details of the Attainability Program in accordance with the requirements of the Annexation Agreement when the annexation becomes final…” Attainable housing is an important part of the big picture; the details need to be negotiated prior to annexation. What if they can not agree? In City Council’s rush to get this Agreement passed before the fall election, they passed over the attainable housing section before it was finalized. Who would sign a contract before the details are finalized? After Annexation, how strong is the City’s negotiating position?

“Opponents claim that city residents will get stuck with the bill if the development flops”

According to the attorney who represented the City in writing the Agreement, Jerry Dahl, the expansion of water filtration and wastewater treatment facilities could be financed by “requiring the developer to prepay tap fees” or “The City could choose to issue bonds to raise the funds for the capital expansion”. Which is it? The developer has not stepped forward to prepay tap fees. So, if the City issues bonds, and the tap fees do not come in as hoped for, who gets stuck with the bill? This is like you signing a loan for your neighbor’s new car, if he does not make the payments, you must.

“That’s the “pay to play” structure that protects us from being left with the tab.”

Who paid the tab of $2.2 million for the New Victory Highway? The City and County. The City has been asked on several occasions to provide a simple graph of how the costs and expenditures of this annexation will be met. They have failed to do so. They have said that at times the City will be running in the red on costs associated with the annexation. Where will this money come from?

One more issue. From the Annexation Agreement- XII.2.G-“. Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed as requiring Developer to develop the Development, and any failure to develop the Project shall not be deemed a default of Developer under this Agreement.” So what if the City lives up to their financial obligations associated with this annexation and SB 700 does not? The City would add value to this property by annexation in return for expectations that may not be met.

Some may say that this deal is better than no deal. I say that a contract that addresses the concerns, values and financial repercussions of and to this community is in our best interest and this Annexation Agreement falls short.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 9 months ago

Looking back chronologically, the Pilot editorial trend of 8 months: Editorial a) No wet water rights from 700 Editorial b) No public vote on 700 Editorial c) Push for October 2008 annexation vote in spite of missing NEPA study and Water/Wastewater study completion. Editorial d) Vote Yes on SB700

To be fair, I tend to agree with a). Could be I'm a moderate.
The Pilot editorial's on the other hand, looks like its editorials are being written by Steamboat 700.

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cindy constantine 4 years, 9 months ago

Hmmmm- In the interest of "fair and balanced" reporting seems like the Editorial Board would be "fact checking" their own Op-Ed piece. They were very diligent in fact checking the Sunday letters to the Editor from both sides. From your editorial-". . .vocal opponents of the annexation agreement regrettably have reverted to misinformation in an attempt to sway voters." And how do you suppose we are to interpret the misinformation contained in this piece?? The lack of objectiveness on the part of our "community" paper is beyond discouraging--it is sickening.

On another note--just got an update from the Public Trustee's Office on foreclosures. 45-50 in 2008, approx 195 in 2009 and 32 in process so far in 2010 which translates to over 230 for 2010 if trends stay at current pace.

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housepoor 4 years, 9 months ago

Still can't figure why the built the Highway before annexation approval?

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flotilla 4 years, 9 months ago

Brent, I hope we'll see the "misinformation" of this opinion piece addressed no later than tomorrow.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 9 months ago

I observe that it would appear that there could be a middle ground if this annexation agreement is rejected. That many of the comments opposing it actually agree with the promises of SB 700, but do not believe the current annexation agreement will result in those promises being kept.

A reduced annexation of the current agreement but prorated to like 200-400 units would allow seeing how the development was proceeding and whether it needed to be tweaked before further annexation and development.

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1999 4 years, 9 months ago

housepoor...the highway was approved.

fred needs to get his money!!!

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pitpoodle 4 years, 9 months ago

First, this annexation agreement was passed in September 09 with a 4-3 vote, hardly a vote of confidence. City staff primarily negotiated this agreement (remember they were paid by SB 700 through the process). Nobody ever elected this staff to make these very ify decision for us. They are supposed to protect our interests not SB 700's interests. Misinformation: US 40 improvements will be necessary no matter where our future growth occurs according to the Pilot. However, without SB 700 and its additional 17,600 to 21,900 vehicle trips per day we can improve "existing operational and safety deficiencies" that will meet our needs through the citys Annual Capital Improvement Program or similar programs". This according to a West of SBS US Highway 40 System Needs Study. With SB 700 we are facing $110 million. SB 700 will pay $30-$43 million to mitigate only the impacts it creates. Taxpayers will still owe $67 to $80 million more. Where does the agreement state that SB 700 will front the money for this? Misinformation: No one has stated that state and fed money isn't provided for infrastructure projects. What was said is there is no money in either budget to cover $110 million now or in the foreseeable future. That is simply the case.

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space 4 years, 9 months ago

Jobs, jobs, jobs. mmmm, and where will we work that we would make 120 to 200 % AMI? I love the fact that our own city is scrutinizing their budgets so much that they think it is okay to send business to outside vendors residing in other states and counties. So much for our city council members who pledged to support Local Businesses. With that kind of thinking, this town will never pull off Steamboat 700. Our motto should be "Think Local, Buy Elsewhere"

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 9 months ago

2009's 150% AMI income for a family of 4: $120,900 per year. (160% AMI wasn't in my chart.)

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pitpoodle 4 years, 9 months ago

Oh yeah, there is more misinformation from the Pilot. The city has agreed to provide water and wastewater facilities to the tune of over $60 million to develop the property. So far, SB 700 has agreed to pay $960,000 toward firming up water rights. Tap fees have not kept pace with infrastructure demands to this point. SB 700 is promoting the idea that the anticipated tap fees will "help" to cover some of the infrastructure needed for the project. With off site infrastructure needed before sales can occur, it seems highly unlikely that SB 700 will front the tap fees and the annexation agreement does not make that clear in any way. Just to accommodate the SB portion, it will be $27 million out of a total of $60 plus million. According to the city's attorney, the city could choose to issue bonds to cover expansion costs. I think we can count on the city bonding for these expenses at huge cost to residents. An approved annexation agreement is a legal document. Notwithstanding the citys review and approval process, once approved it will be a green light to build 2,000 units and probably more. It is more than just big-picture stuff.

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jaded 4 years, 9 months ago

As someone who supports the annexation agreement, my only consolation reading these comments is that most of you are just spouting out the same things you have said over and over again, which is no, no, no it can never work, without giving any suggestions or alternatives besides infill for AH (which I agree would be nice, but you can't force someone to develop their land, and it isn't happening on it's own). Hopefully the public is doing their own due diligence and getting the FACTS from the agreements in place and from the people who spent 15 years and countless hours putting together this comprehensive plan that helps Steamboat achieve it's own WSSAP, the plan that all of you had input on (if you showed up to any of the meetings - and I believe a few of you did, but I guess they disagreed with you).

These false views are made even more ridiculous by comments from those above who are STILL questioning the New Victory Highway, which has NOTHING to do with 700. The City required it for the Overlook development. End of discussion. Many of you are proving yourselves to be uneducated about the facts, and are showing the general public that you are not interested in debate, only defeat.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 9 months ago

Jaded, As I've said before, the 4-3 Council vote on 700 is easy evidence this is not a slam dunk success or a slam dunk failure.

I did attend many of those SB700 meetings. My name is among those inside the cover of the updated WSSAP. I've abstained pretty much from these threads on SB700 because, of the things I asked of SB700, they made some progress. Not enough to get my vote, but enough that I'm willing to trust the ballot's final decision.

The irony is, I find myself posting correction after correction to the writing of this newspaper, as in Mike Lawrence's article today and in my comments above on this editorial. Amidst the uninformed arguments you mention, we at the very least deserve accuracy from this newspaper. Its my opinion we are not getting it from them either.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 9 months ago

700 opponents never seem to tire of throwing stuff at the wall to see if it sticks. Muddying the water is fine sport but I prefer to hear ideas rather than this demolition derby.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 9 months ago

This is a 20 year plan of which parts are highly doubtful that will work. The affordable housing aspect looks more like a joke than a plan.

You want an alternative plan? How about a phased annexation in which the first 250 are done according the to SB 700 plan and then the rest can be annexed to the same plan if everything works as promised. If things like affordable or being marketed to locals and transportation fail to come true then that can be fixed in subsequent annexations.

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TWill 4 years, 9 months ago

Good plan Scott. What do you think of that one Fred? It's not muddying the water or a demolition derby, but more of a common sense based, realistic approach.

Maybe it's not the home run for the developer or infrastructure contractors that they had hoped for, but it makes the most reasonable sense for our overall community.

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cindy constantine 4 years, 9 months ago

Yes Scott and here are further details on a phased annexation as I see it. In each phase the DEVELOPER is required to build 100 units of affordable housing (townhomes/condos that he can sell NOT apartments). Reduce the commercial space by 300,000 square feet and donate the 15 acres to a business park for cottage industries, research/educational centers, think tanks, non-profits, etc. each of whom must employee a minimum of 10 people and have a sound business plan as approved by a group of civic leaders. They build their facility on the donated land and provide year around jobs for the residents of the neighborhood. And include all 700 acres that the developer purchased to make it more acceptable for his investors. I would be the first one on the bandwagon to support a plan of this nature.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 9 months ago

700 is a flexible plan and we will see many changes in coming years, I don't see the need to fret over every detail when we don't know the future. Apporoval gives us a plan for the future for mostly others to shape, micromanaging at this time is folly. Let's give our children the benefit of the doubt to make wise decisions.

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TWill 4 years, 9 months ago

And give YOUR children the benefit of paying YOU to build more roads and infrastructure than we presently need...

Don't forget the benefit of flooding our, already stagnant, real estate market with more units that won't sell. That supply/ demand cycle should correct itself just around the time our children are ready to buy a home.

Enough with the whole "do it for the kids" argument, too. That's a feel-good cloak that the greedy few that will benefit from SB700 put over this whole thing. And those that don't directly benefit won't be able to stay here long enough to raise their kids here because property values will drop so much, that their upside down mortgages can't be refinanced and will be foreclosed on. But that's good for the kids and "Good 4 Steamboat"- right?

Use common sense and logic- VOTE NO on SB700!

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Duke_bets 4 years, 9 months ago

How and why is Steamboat going to see growth over the next 20 years? The population of Steamboat is actually down by a few hundred over the last 10 years. Routt County is up by 16%, but that is primarily because of Stagecoach, Oak Creek, and Hayden.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 9 months ago

Fred, What if SB 700 came to you and said that they will give you a contract for roads and construction excavation for the entire SB 700 project. That it would be based upon your current rates and adjusted for inflation. Sounds like a great deal, huh?

But then you realize the offer has no requirements that they ever built anything. Also, that they could decide to build 400 units in one year and nothing for years after that. That sort of boom/bust construction schedule would make it extremely hard for you to control your costs. And the inflation clause uses the CPI which could be much different than the changes in excavation costs in the Yampa Valley.

What's worse is that it is written so that they could come back and ask you to make concessions while you have to abide by the terms if they become unfavorable to you.

Would you sign that deal?

I think that is the sort of deal that SB is being asked to approve.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 9 months ago

I can tell that you have never tried to fight city hall. The city will always carry a big club and any wise developer will be willing to work out problems that arise.

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Matthew Stoddard 4 years, 9 months ago

What I've really noticed about all of this...is that it's the total opposite (politically) from national issues. The Pilot conservative voices want this to push thru & those that mostly get labeled as liberal want to "start from scratch" on the West Steamboat Plan. Funny how you notice those things when you just sit back and watch. Not as good as watching LOST or Survivor, but entertaining nonetheless.

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jk 4 years, 9 months ago

Fred, Maybe you can just answer the question that was asked??

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 9 months ago

Matt, The opponents to SB 700 include some that would like to "start from scratch". But I observe that quite a number of the SB 700 opponents approve of the goals of SB 700, but think that reality as the project is eventually built and sold will be far different from the promises. Thus, rejecting this SB 700 proposal is mostly about following the WSSAP.

These people that include myself are highly likely to approve a couple hundred units of the SB 700 plan and see how that went before approving more.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 9 months ago

Matt, Until recently the left has had control over local matters, but incompetence has them sidelined at present, necessitating the need for them to demand this vote. If they lose this time will it be best of ;three, or best of five? Our natonal scene mirrors our local situation and you can see similar incompetence on display today. Just one year ago bloggers said that conservatives would either move left or become extinct. I said moving left was not an option. The pendulum has reversed and now we see the folly of following a socialistic feel good agenda devoid of common sense.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 9 months ago

Competence...

We just approved density increases at base area. Our sewer pipes are at capacity. The City wastewater fund is nearly empty.

But trust that 700 will be handled differently!

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