The following quote is from the Steamboat Pilot in 1973 — 37 years ago — before Steamboat’s annexation of the 2,500-acre area south of Old Town. That’s more than five times the size of the Steamboat 700 annexation.
“‘To me it seems they’re cramming this down our throats,” said a housewife who asked her name not be used. “ … There are so many unanswered questions.”
The fact is Steamboat Springs has a history of annexations that have allowed us to remain a real town instead of a resort town. The annexed land created opportunity for local workers and the middle class to live in Steamboat Springs in the Fish Creek, Willet Heights and Whistler neighborhoods where half of Steamboat’s population lives today.
Preparing for growth
Routt County has grown by 66 percent since 1990. State experts project that Routt County’s population will grow by 71 percent during the next 20 years. As our country’s population grows, people always will want to live in places like Steamboat and the Yampa Valley.
The costs of being unprepared for that growth were described bluntly in the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan adopted in 1998:
“If residential growth cannot occur within the Steamboat Springs urban area, it will likely be forced to outlying areas such as Oak Creek, Stagecoach, Hayden and Craig. This will result in increased commuting time, road and infrastructure costs, traffic impacts, split family life and other social costs, and higher costs of recruiting a work force for Steamboat Springs businesses.”
Our community chose to take action to guide growth and preserve our community’s special character. Between 1995 and 2006, there were hundreds of meetings, dozens of studies, scores of public hearings and thousands of hours of community participation to create a grass-roots plan.
Steamboat 700 does not create growth, but it does help us prepare for growth. The wealthy always will have opportunities to live in Colorado’s mountain communities. What Steamboat needs are new neighborhoods for the people who work here and live here year-round.
Development that pays its own way
More than three years were spent negotiating an agreement, culminating in the City Council’s approval of the Steamboat 700 annexation last October.
The city’s first condition for annexation is that the development pay its own way.
The annexation agreement is clear: no lot can be sold until the public improvements to serve the lot (roads, water, sewer, utilities, parks, etc.) are built or guaranteed. Simply put, existing taxpayers cannot be “on the hook” if something goes wrong.
Stop the can-kicking
Our tendency in Steamboat is to keep “kicking the can down the road.” We are very good at identifying and studying problems, but too often we leave the problem for the next generation to figure out — and almost always at higher costs. This is our moment in time to plan for the next generation’s opportunity to enjoy Steamboat.
Saying “no” to Steamboat 700 won’t make the cars disappear from U.S. Highway 40 — there will be more cars, as our workers increasingly commute in from Hayden, Craig and Oak Creek. It won’t lessen today’s school crowding. It won’t eliminate our need for a west-side fire station or an emergency water supply. And it won’t correct our housing imbalance.
The city is in control
If any portion of the annexation agreement is violated by Steamboat 700, then the city can stop development. If the city implements a growth moratorium, Steamboat 700 must comply. The choice is simple. We can choose to support the public process and representative government and uphold the annexation, control growth and realize the benefits from it. Or, we can relinquish our control of growth, kick the can down the road and be burdened with the undesirable impacts of growth outside the city limits.
The Annexation agreement is structured to limit the cost, risk and liability to the city. Steamboat 700 is better than revenue neutral — it is revenue positive. Not only will there be no increased taxes or reduction in services to existing residents, Steamboat 700 is projected to produce a net gain of more than $100 million to the community through land dedications, cash contributions, capital improvements, taxes and income streams. This is growth that more than pays its own way.
When we plan for growth, and it pays its own way, that’s good for Steamboat.
Vote “yes” on Referendum A.