Hermacinski split on Steamboat 700 vote

Council president says annexation vote is ‘no’ as city official and ‘yes’ as citizen

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Cari Hermacinski

— Steamboat’s City Council president said this week that despite voting “no” on the Steam­boat 700 annexation agreement this fall, she’ll vote “yes” on her mail-in ballot.

Cari Hermacin­ski was one of three council members who voted against Steamboat 700 on Oct. 13, 2009, when the council approved the annexation in a 4-3 decision. That decision ultimately resulted in a successful, citizen-led petition effort and the all-mail public vote on Steamboat 700 that is under way.

Hermacinski said Wednesday that as a City Council member, her vote remains “no” on the annexation, largely because of her concern about Steam­boat 700’s proposed attainable housing program.

“I’m concerned about attainability when there is such a tremendous infrastructure burden for the developer because, obviously, that gets passed on to the people buying a home,” she said. “I do think we’ll get the affordable (housing) out of it, we’ll get the stuff that’s mandated, but will they achieve the attainable part is a question in my mind, so that’s why I voted ‘no.’”

Steamboat 700’s draft attainability program would require 30 percent of about 1,600 homes in the annexation to be marketed for one year to buyers or households earning between 120 percent and 200 percent of the area median income.

But homeowners at the 487-acre site just west of current city limits would face property tax rates more than double those now in Steamboat, according to 2009 figures, in addition to tap fees and a real estate transfer fee. Steamboat 700’s community housing program is separate from its proposed attainability program, which has not been finalized. Hermacinski said that when voting as a citizen, she is not bound by the same concerns as a City Council member. She called the annexation agreement between Steamboat 700 and the city “very thorough and sound” overall.

“As a resident of this community, I’m going to vote for the annexation,” she said. “We are going to continue to grow. It may not happen in the next 10 years, but my kids are going to need a place to live if they want to come back to this community, and I think a master-planned annexation is our best opportunity to minimize the impacts of growth.”

She said an acceptance of risk is a personal trait separating her two votes.

“I know that’s hard to reconcile, that I would vote one way as an elected official and the other as a resident,” she said. “As an elected official, I think you have to be extremely cautious and wary.”

Tim Rowse, spokesman of the Let’s Vote committee opposing the annexation, said Thursday that “it seems inconsistent she’d vote ‘no’ on council and ‘yes’ as a citizen.”

Let’s Vote has cited Hermac­inski’s October vote in campaign ads using the “smart choice” slogan Hermacinski used in her re-election bid in the fall.

Hermacinski’s October vote came in the middle of a re-election campaign in which her opponent, Kevin Bennett, was a strong critic of Steamboat 700. She denied Thursday that her council vote was politically motivated or that her dichotomy now is an effort to play to both sides of the issue.

“I would never make any decision based on my political re-election, especially one that is so critically important to Steam­boat,” Hermacinski said. “My ego is not tied to this seat — I’m doing this because I want to serve the community.”

Split decision

Two residents with significant City Council experience said it’s understandable to vote one way in Centennial Hall and another at the ballot box.

“I think it’s reasonable for her to look at any given issue from a (City Council) perspective that’s different than a personal perspective,” said newly elected City Councilman Jim Engelken, who also served from 1995 to 2001. “Part of the responsibility of being an elected official is … setting aside personal preference and speaking for the community as a whole.”

Engelken disagreed with Her­macinski, however, that Steam­boat 700 presents the best opportunity for master planning.

“In the case of Steamboat 700, it’s simply a bad deal — the argument that this is the only opportunity to have a planned development simply isn’t true,” he said. “This isn’t a one-shot deal. The developer would like you to think so. ... I don’t buy it for a second.”

Paul Strong was City Council president from 2003 to 2005 and on council from 1999 to 2007.

“You’ve got to take the wider concerns in hand when you make (City Council) decisions, and as an individual you might not necessarily feel that way,” he said.

Strong said he voted for the annexation.

“I’ve told people that personally, it’s probably better for me if it doesn’t pass because my home value will go up quicker, but I think (denial) would be bad for the community,” he said.

Steamboat Springs City Clerk Julie Franklin said 1,828 citizens had voted on the annexation as of Thursday afternoon. That’s about 29 percent of the 6,386 registered, active city voters listed in county registration figures released last month.

Comments

ybul 4 years, 9 months ago

“I know that’s hard to reconcile, that I would vote one way as an elected official and the other as a resident,” she said. “As an elected official, I think you have to be extremely cautious and wary.”

Given the current economic climate do you not think we should be extremely cautious and wary as citizens? If this takes 40 years to build out and the city puts up bonds to build infrastructure based upon a hint the economy is turning the corner next year and it does not who picks up the tab.

The next concern would be if another development is annexed and does not include a transfer tax/mil to pay for infrastructure improvements could 700 residents purchasers say that is not fair/just whatever and stick the city with all of the costs of the development?

Many questions, and more concerns the more I read about this development.

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John Fielding 4 years, 9 months ago

It is laudable that an elected official sets aside their personal preferences when considering the public business. It is really what is expected of them.

When comments such as "it's simply bad deal" are made it is incumbent on the speaker to be more specific. I have heard very little in the way of viable suggestions on how to improve the annexation agreement. Generalities like "wait until the traffic problem is solved", or "provide more affordable housing" fall into the same category. I have read the "bad 4 Steamboat" publications and articles with dismay at this lack of concrete alternatives. Who has a better plan?

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Clearsky 4 years, 9 months ago

Typical political response, I'm for it but I'm against it. Or I'm against it but I'm for it. Obviously there are serious issues with annexation. The community should not have to cover the cost of any part of new development. Republicans and Democrats can agree to that I hope. Most states that have gone through this before have laws that require all infrastructure to be installed before the first house is built. If the developer and city council are really serious then require all buildings to be "net zero" and build the infrastructure first.

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Matthew Stoddard 4 years, 9 months ago

Something about a cake and eating it, too...

I don't believe it's putting aside personal preference. As an elected official she thought it was not in the interest of the community. Why would her personal vote differ from that? And yes, I picked that wording specifically: whether it's popular or not, if you truly feel it's in the best interest of the community, she should have voted on it that way in her elected capacity.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 9 months ago

Why is this "simply a bad deal"?

Simplest reason why it is a bad deal is that it is annexing the entire project to be built over 20+ years that has many serious questions on almost every aspect of it.

A far better deal would have been to prorate the current deal for 250 units and see if the agreement works as promised before annexing more.

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housepoor 4 years, 9 months ago

flip flop
so she thinks it's good for her (voting yes on the ballot) but not good for the community? (voting no on council) Most likely, she also knew that it would pass in council without her vote, so she votes no based on some AF details letting her play both sides of the fence. Hmmmmm ......well..... I was for it all along its jussst that, I.... ahhh had a few concerns about Affordable Housing......... She should be running for the senate.

Strong said he voted for the annexation.

“I’ve told people that personally, it’s probably better for me if it doesn’t pass because my home value will go up quicker, but I think (denial) would be bad for the community,” he said.

So it will have an effect on housing prices? That's a city council member saying this? But SB700 says it won't???? Of course it will have an effect on home values, only a fool believes it won't!!!

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cindy constantine 4 years, 9 months ago

John, Thank you for your thoughtful comments on the blog. What we have on our side now is time. Ms. H admits in the article that it may be 10 years before we begin to grow again. In the mean time the community continues to shrink for lack of work. A former city employee admitted to me in mid-november that he thought as many as 1,000 residents had moved on. I disagree with you about no alternative plans coming forward. For many months, bloggers have mentioned a master plan with PHASED annexation. This will give the community time to make needed adjustments to the plan as needed before the next parcel is annexed. What if we don't need 380,000 sf of commercial space but instead need a nursing home, new medical facility, campus for a trade school to provide jobs on the west side. Phasing will allow the plan to be altered PRIOR to annexing the next parcel. In addition the planning commissioners are looking at the zoning code city-wide for possible update in density within the existing city limits. Proponents say with high land costs that is impossible. I disagree. I suggest you talk with the Public Trustees office about foreclosure rates that continue to trend higher continuing to put downward pressure on values. It could be another several years before we reach a true bottom. In a resort economy, we are very dependent on the national economic health. The managing partner of S700 has a fiduciary responsibility to his investors to maximize the potential return. By continued threats of selling the land off into 35 acres parcels, he is not meeting that obligation PLUS there is NO MARKET for that strategy. If this annexation is not approved by the voters, the developer can come back in one year with a revised plan that acknowledges the changed needs of this community. The developer WILL hold the City's "feet to the fire" on any written agreement. What is most distressing about this situation, is that the supporters have never fully acknowledged this severe economic downturn other than to say instead of a 20 year build-out this may take up to 40-50 years. That is a gamble too risky for any community to take!!

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John Fielding 4 years, 9 months ago

snowbow

We are fortunate that Steamboat still has the ghost (residual spirit) of what it once was. We have a better chance strengthening that if we accommodate growth outside of Old Town. Pursuing infill options will encourage increased density, taking out little old houses and riverside trailer parks in favor of multistory mixed use blocks. Attempting to resist growth will simply drive up prices and drive our working class farther out. Avoiding construction of an alternate to highway 40 around Old Town will ultimately render it unsuitable for anything but a traffic corridor. How much of the ghost will remain then?

The annexation proposal is not perfect, but it does allow the City to have significant participation in the growth process. Most of the regional growth will still be in the county and beyond, leaving us with the impact but not the influence.

I left my beloved boyhood home when the population density became more than I was comfortable with. If Steamboat is effective in resisting smart growth, and the scenarios I mentioned come to pass, I may eventually choose to move on again. I loved Steamboat in the early 70's, I like it better now, and I believe in 20 years I will love it yet, despite or because of all the changes that will surely come to pass. I believe we will choose planned growth over county-wide sprawl, and that the old spirit will have a new incarnation in each generation.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 9 months ago

In the tape of either Council's 1st or 2nd reading of the annexation ordinance, Jon Quinn clearly makes an appeal to other councilors to not make the political calculation that, "knowing this is going to pass anyway", you have the luxury of a calculated "no" vote. Jon's argument was that the community needed the strongest possible Council endorsement of SB700.

Politics are like chess, and its my opinion most career politicians are making these calculations on a regular basis. Cari is a smart politician. Deal with it.

Kielbasa's note above of "Got the cake and eating it too" was accurate by last December, but became even more accurate today. The 5-2 council endorsement of SB700 is now there too.

The element here that speaks volumes - Cari is announcing her changed vote in a Pilot article. This cake is sweet indeed.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 9 months ago

And there could be more cake...

Let'sVoteNo has said the annexation's developers will come back to the City to renegotiate the annexation agreement.

When our council president says she wants the annexation yet, “I’m concerned about attainability when there is such a tremendous infrastructure burden for the developer...", she's sending a clear message to the developers that her council would welcome that renegotiation. .

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best4steamboat 4 years, 9 months ago

Housepoor:

I agree with you. This was a calculated risk on her part. If she had any integrity, she would have told the Pilot/Today that her vote was private and her own business, regardless of how she voted. That she did not do this reeks of politics in that she knew that there were enough votes to pass the issue.

Once again, the Steamboat Pilot/Today has failed our community. It picked up on one aspect that LetsVoteNo advertising and purposefully and, I believe with malice and intent to deceive readers, interviewed Ms. H. with the objective to dispel the negative ramifications on this project that her City Council vote cast.

Everyone should contact the Colorado Press Association about this community's newspaper's blatant and outright affront to its readers in that it violates the very tenant of the press association's goal of "encouraging constantly higher standards of ethics."

This paper has consistently presently biased and slanted news coverage of this issue throughout and has completely failed in its duty to be accurate and fair and report reality, not their own perception of it or anyone else's.

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sparkle 4 years, 9 months ago

What goes around comes around....karma will get you....power corrupts....greed leads some....the truth will prevail...hang in there everybody, don't be afraid, and continue to fight the GOOD fight.

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John Fielding 4 years, 9 months ago

The spirit of Steamboat past is of James Crawford recognizing a place where people would want to come for the hot springs, and laying out a town and selling lots on it. It is of Carl Howelson promoting a winter sports enthusiasm that attracted folks to ride the railroad up and participate or just watch men fly. It is of Perry and Mansfield establishing a center for performing arts that attracted summer visitors even from New York City. It is of Lowell Whiteman bringing in a bunch of city kids for education of the body and spirit as well as the mind. It is of John Fetcher applying his Ivy League engineering education to providing everything from water to an alpine slide. It is the spirit of a place where people are because they want to be there and have made sacrifices to get here. It is of countless residents who have welcomed people to this town, to visit or to settle. It is of the optimism of our predecessors, that as we work and grow together we will secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. Yes the spirit of our past is still with us, and long may it thrive!

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John Fielding 4 years, 9 months ago

Dear George,

I like to think I have integrity, I am very surprised to have that question raised. While my proposals differ from yours I do not attribute that to any lack of integrity in either of us.

I would be happy to discuss my suggestions to the traffic problems inherent in annexation or in growth without annexation, or even as they exist today. I believe the Lincoln Avenue traffic is already having a significant negative impact. We will suffer more delays, loss of business downtown, unpleasant memories among our visitors, and diminished priceless feelings of good will towards ones fellows as we delay implementing some remedy.

There is a solution that can eliminate at least several hundred trips a day through downtown that could take effect very soon, and that is included in the 700 proposal. It is the new commercial hub, for which a demand already exists. If the city can require or promote by incentive the establishment of several businesses as the first development to be permitted at that location it would not only reduce traffic immediately but would be an attraction to home buyers.

Longer term, the traffic through downtown will only be reduced if people stop driving there. I cannot conceive that a great many will resort to mass transit unless their right to private use of the road is restricted (as by tolls for instance) or the cost and availability of parking becomes a major factor. Any successful effort to force people out of their cars would also solve the traffic problem by many of them leaving. I would not choose to live here if I was not allowed to drive through town whenever I chose to.

The "Rape of Emerald Mountain", as you so dramatically call it, or the Emerald Mountain Parkway, is not a new idea, I certainly cannot claim credit for anything more that a few suggestions of how it could be combined with a new World Class Nordic Center (also not my original idea), and trail heads, parks with picnic facilities and playgrounds overlooking the valley and mountain, and a Telluride like gondola from Old Town to the extensive underground parking at the Nordic Center.

(due to space limitations this comment is continued in a following submission below)

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John Fielding 4 years, 9 months ago

The fact is we have so many wonderful parks and public facilities from the bottleneck on up the river and mountain that any alternate roadway will impact some of them. Each of us is certainly entitled to an opinion where the impacts are more tolerable. There are many who believe as I do that the Emerald Mountain Parkway would be an enhancement to the park as it re-creates access and facilities to that area which was once open to vehicles and had a lift into the big meadows (the cable sleigh).

For those who lament the loss of the solitude on the lower slopes, I hope comfort can come from the fact the upper mountain will be more easily attained. But of course more people will use that as well. Many think that is a good thing and are happy to comingle. Those of us who crave privacy will have to go a little farther afield.

Of course I realize George, that you live in Fairview, and have publicly vowed to fight any alternate roadway plan that goes through that way. The fact is that there is a viable route that would not require any house or business to be sacrificed. But the traffic that is now all downtown would be shared, and I must agree that would be less pleasant for Fairview. I do have a concern for that impact, and while I do not agree that it would "destroy" the neighborhood, I will not pretend it does not exist.

But most agree that protecting the quality of Main Street is worth some sacrifice. If not going around Fairview then perhaps through the elk statue, library and D hole, then the skate park and on to Brooklyn. That would be a better grade.

The fact is that the "major bypass south"affects a very small percentage of that very large park and makes it more usable for more people. Other proposals damage large percentages of smaller parks and do not make any improvements to them. It is not unreasonable to support the Emerald Mountain Parkway.

A final note. When I presented my proposal to John Fetcher, he said he "wanted to be its biggest supporter". How I wish he was still with us. But there are many now living who share his spirit and embrace what we believe are wonderful improvements to our valley. Let us move ahead with a commitment to mutual respect and accommodation as the keys to success.

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jk 4 years, 9 months ago

"There is a solution that can eliminate at least several hundred trips a day through downtown that could take effect very soon, and that is included in the 700 proposal. It is the new commercial hub, for which a demand already exists. If the city can require or promote by incentive the establishment of several businesses as the first development to be permitted at that location it would not only reduce traffic immediately but would be an attraction to home buyers."

This is my favorite from Mr. Fielding! I wish I lived in the same dream world he is residing in.

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