Eagle River Station supporters Matt James, left, and Melissa Lopez show their support for a “yes” vote as an opposer to the project walks by Jan. 5 in Eagle. The town saw its largest voter turnout in history that day, as the ERS development was turned down after a heated local debate. A public vote on the annexation of Steamboat 700 is expected to inspire the same passions. The Steamboat 700 mail-in vote will begin in mid-February and conclude March 9.

Kristin Anderson/Vail Daily

Eagle River Station supporters Matt James, left, and Melissa Lopez show their support for a “yes” vote as an opposer to the project walks by Jan. 5 in Eagle. The town saw its largest voter turnout in history that day, as the ERS development was turned down after a heated local debate. A public vote on the annexation of Steamboat 700 is expected to inspire the same passions. The Steamboat 700 mail-in vote will begin in mid-February and conclude March 9.

Eagle debate strikes chord

Development battle similar to Steamboat 700 conversation

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Pam Boyd/Eagle Valley Enterprise

Jorge Duran and his son Georgie, of New Castle, lead a picket line during a carpenters’ union rally Dec. 21 in Eagle, protesting the Eagle River Station project that town voters narrowly defeated Jan. 5. Campaigns for and against the development bear similarities to Steamboat 700, which Steamboat residents will vote on in a mail-only election that concludes March 9.

— Last week’s vote by Eagle residents to deny a proposed development came after a debate about growth similar to local talk about Steamboat 700.

On Jan. 5, Eagle residents turned out in record numbers to vote on Eagle River Station, an 88-acre development that proposed 581 homes, a 150-room hotel and 552,000 square feet of commercial space, including a Target, on the town’s east end. Trinity/RED Eagle was the developer for the project, slated for a site already annexed into the town.

Eagle Town Manager William “Willy” Powell said the vote would have changed the site’s zoning from resource, or agricultural, to a planned unit development for Eagle River Station. The Vail Daily reported last week that in Eagle’s highest voter turnout on record, residents defeated the proposal with 1,175 votes against and 1,019 in support, or about 53 to 47 percent.

About 61 percent of Eagle’s 3,585 registered voters cast a ballot.

Steamboat Springs residents will vote on a growth-related issue of their own next month, when ballots are sent for a mail-only election to determine whether the city annexes Steamboat 700. The development proposes about 2,000 homes and 380,000 square feet of commercial space on 487 acres west of city limits. City planning documents cite a 20- to 30-year timeframe for development. Ballots will be sent between Feb. 15 and 19, and the vote concludes March 9.

Many of the issues debated in Eagle are similar to those regarding Steamboat 700.

Powell said Eagle River Station was planned for a site within the town’s growth boundary and which master planning documents had slated for development. Opponents of Eagle River Station questioned its traffic impacts, costs and size, while supporters — including Eagle Mayor Ed Woodland and four of the six other Eagle Town Board members — cited the development’s potential boosts to city finances and city infrastructure projects including a new water treatment plant and area highway improvements.

Jan Rosenthal Townsend was a founding member of “Smart Growth — Not Urban Sprawl — Vote No on Eagle River Station,” the campaign group opposing the development.

“I think the major thing for us was that it was at the gateway to Eagle; the major thing was its location,” she said Monday, adding that she was still “on cloud nine” after leading an effort to defeat a project that had powerful backing. “It was just too big. They had to make it that big in order to get to their bottom line. … It was just wrong time, wrong place.”

Paul Witt, spokesman for the developers, said their goal was to “put out all the facts about the project and let the voters decide.” He said Monday that opponents of the project caused some “confusion and misinformation” about Eagle River Station.

“That had to do with funding at two other projects the developer had done. The opposition … kept trying to characterize it as a bailout, and it clearly wasn’t,” Witt said.

The Vote No group hired Denver-area consultant David Flaherty to manage the campaign and spent just less than $34,000 between Nov. 12 and Dec. 15, according to the Vail Daily. The supporting group, “Yes for Eagle’s Future,” spent just less than $14,000 between Nov. 1 and Dec. 10, the newspaper reported.

Powell said the community was sharply divided on the debate.

“Some people were concerned it would change the character of the community, other people said we need this so we can reverse the fortunes of town coffers,” he said.

Powell said Eagle’s sales tax revenues were about 10 percent less in 2009 than 2008, a difference of more than $200,000. Meanwhile, a boom in residential growth from 2003 to 2007 doubled the town’s population from 3,000 to about 6,000, he said.

Witt said developers have not yet made any decisions about what to do with the Eagle River Station site.

Steamboat 700 consultant Curtis Church and Tim Rowse, of the Let’s Vote committee opposing the annexation, said they did not closely follow the debate leading up to Eagle’s vote.

Powell said Eagle is growing regardless of the result.

“One of the ways to look at it is the character of the town has already changed,” Powell said, “because in effect we went from being a truly small town to a small city in a few short years.”

Comments

gldrlmmh 4 years, 11 months ago

Let's hope the voters in Steamboat are not as short-sighted as those in Eagle. For anyone who has lived here over 20 years (the expected time line for Steamboat 700 development to be fully realized), the growth in Steamboat is obvious. Are we to expect that because traffic has increased over these last 2 decades, we should bar the door, put a gate over Rabbit Ears pass and keep all those newcomers out?
The proposal for Steamboat 700 supports planned growth. Of course the economy is down, but knee-jerk reactions won't help this community manage its future. I would like to hear how the opponents propose we manage growth for the next 20 years. So far all I hear from that group is negativity, barely hiding the sentiment: "I've got mine, who cares about yours!". What are the counter proposals?
Growth will happen, make no mistake about that. It benefits everyone to make it intelligent growth, not haphazard.

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steamboatbusiness 4 years, 11 months ago

I agree. We should trust our elected council members and city staff who have spent so much time thoroughly researching this annexation before they approved it. It is so important that we don't miss this opportunity for Steamboat's future. I don't want everyone to have to commute from "downvalley" to come in to this town and serve the second home owners. We need to leave our community vibrant and full of local business people and families all day and week long, rather than shipping them back out to outlying communities at 5pm each day. I agree on your comment about showing us how the opponents plan for the expected growth to be absorbed, perhaps they prefer for us to lose some of our ag land, and they prefer to see Strawberry Park, South Valley floor and Emerald mountain become developed. Perhaps they prefer to see haphazard growth where no developer has a vested interest in providing and paying for infrastructure. There are so many benefits to the WSSAP annexation that was already approved and is so heavily endorsed. I hope we can make it stick because it makes me sick to my stomach to think of all the opportunity we will lose if it goes away.

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housepoor 4 years, 11 months ago

Why is it assumed that this growth is inevitable? DOLA projections?

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freerider 4 years, 11 months ago

JUST SAY NO TO THE 700 FARCE .....All you cheerleaders out there better get something in your little pea brain heads ....not everybody here wants growth...I've lived here for 40 years and as far as I'm concerened if Steamboat got smaller in size that wouls be just fine with me...There is no proposal to handle the water issues or traffic that even comes close to being in the ball park of intelligence. This is all about money for the developers not the quality of life here...2000 homes means anywhere from 4 to 6 thousand more cars in that neighborhood ....even a blind man can see whats going to happen in the bottleneck....not one city council member or resident has an answer for that...I've been to the meetings and the traffic issues get swept under the rug ... it's like listening to George W. talk about WMD'S in Iraq

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JusWondering 4 years, 11 months ago

Hmmm.... looks to me like the pictures say it all.

“Some people were concerned it would change the character of the community, other people said we need this so we can reverse the fortunes of town coffers..." Since when has residential EVER bettered a town's coffers. Residents are a drain on infrastructure not a revenue enhancement. Best thing about Steamboat... lots of part-time residents that don't call the cops a lot, don't use as much water as full-time, aren't on the streets everyday, etc.

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bigfatdog 4 years, 11 months ago

These two issues are not the same. Steamboat 700 is about an annexation.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 11 months ago

Freerider, I'm with you, if we had no more gtowth, it would make me happy. Only one problem, we are going to have growth, regardless of what you or I do, and burying our heads in the sand and refusing to plan is a recipe for chaos. This will ensure a community mired in mediocrity.

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weststmbtres 4 years, 11 months ago

I think anyone who thinks S700 is a great idea should watch this video that was done by the Jim Lehrer News Hour on PBS a while back.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/video/module.html?s=news01s36b0qd02

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 11 months ago

Weststmbtres, The Eagle situation is the result of social engineering gone awry and the free markets coming in to clean up the mess. In this country we are free to make mistakes and the weak will be eliminated. This is our system at work.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 11 months ago

That's a very interesting link, thanks.

Eagle's experience seems worse than ours. Likely because they were growing so unbelievably fast. Imagine your population doubling in 4 or 5 years! But when a significant part of your population works in construction, you can also see how growth feeds on itself. A little friction in such a market is not so bad in hind sight.

Fred, I can't imagine any event being less attributable to planning (i.e. your social engineering) than Eagle's experience. The free market had its way and built their bubble.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 11 months ago

Its been interesting to hear comments about our own residential inventory. I think its also interesting to look at what's in our local pipeline, waiting to be built. These would be the "next inventory".

Consider the next CC agenda (tentative 1/19), with 4 projects unable to move and seeking extensions of their Dev Permits:

  1. SECOND READI NG OF ORDINANCE: … extending the vesting period for a site specific development plan originally approved as “Montenero at Steamboat Springs” for an additional time period of three years…

  2. SECOND READI NG OF ORDINANCE: … extending the vesting period for a site specific development plan originally approved as “Rocky Peak Village” for an additional time period of three years, …

  3. SECOND READI NG OF ORDINANCE: … extending the vesting period for a site specific development plan originally approved as “Fulton Ridge” for an additional time period of three years, …

  4. SECOND READI NG OF ORDIANCE: …extending the vesting period for a site specific development plan originally approved as “Riverfront Park” for an additional time period of three years, …

That's just on one night's agenda. There will likely be more.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 11 months ago

But don't expect the pipeline to stop growing:

Agenda Item8. PROJECT: Ski Time Square PETITION: Development Plan for a mixed use project totaling 680,742 gross square feet in five buildings with associated site improvements.

Looks like we are vesting Steamboat's just built projects with a glut of competition, and Steamboat in general with some very flat property values.

I suggest Ski Time Square needs to deliver a very, very good value to this community.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 11 months ago

Oh and one agenda item I forgot. We may make these vesting extensions easier by letting City staff do them with no hearing:

  1. SECOND READI NG OF ORDINANCE: An ordinance amending Chapter 26 of the Steamboat Springs Revised Municipal Code by amending the term and effect of approval of final development plans by allowing administrative extensions in limited circumstances;
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Scott Wedel 4 years, 11 months ago

Steve Lewis, Your post about projects requesting extensions is the most eloquent argument against SB 700.

And doesn't the Ski Time Square proposal already include provisions for starting construction later than the normal timelines?

Why are we expected to approve something today that will sit undeveloped for years? Are we really so smart that the annexation agreement written today will better meet the needs of the future than one written contemporaneously in 10 years or whenever it becomes economical to start development?

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aichempty 4 years, 11 months ago

If the SB700 agreement did not obligate the City of Steamboat Springs to spend money to provide necessary infrastructure in advance of development, it would not be a controversial subject.

SB700 was a good idea during the boom. Not so good during the bust.

Timing is everything. Just ask a skydiver . . .

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 11 months ago

Lewi, When Andrew Cuomo came out in favor of 50% of loans to go to the subprime market, this superheated the situation and money was available for nearly anyone walking in the door. This was the spark that lead to chaos, for sure not a free market at work. This lead to the vision of riches for everyone and Eagle is a good example. It was central planning not the market in play here.

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housepoor 4 years, 11 months ago

Fred, if there was no MARKET for those subprime mortgage derivatives or mbs there would have been no subprime loans made. The fact that the MARKET was lining up to buy these instruments created the demand.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 11 months ago

hp, The market was Fannie and Freddie fulfilling their mandate to bring social justice. This spread throughout the system much to the denial of our liberal parasites who still conveniently cling to the deregulation mantra.

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housepoor 4 years, 11 months ago

CRA came out in the 70's, while it may have been a contributing factor, more than half of the risky loans came from mortgage co that were not under CRA requirments. Bottom line lenders made bad and high risk loans to MAKE MONEY not meet CRA requirements. The market has since corrected itself and as often happens swung too far the other way.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 11 months ago

Scott, I see a difference between 700 and these in-town permits. These in town are more penciled and more vested. They are also poised, by definition of their vesting, to pull a building permit within the next 3 years. 700 is longer term, poised for building permits over the next 5-25 years.

I'm inclined to believe these already vested Dev Permits represent the next oversupply of inventory that will keep our market relatively flat in the nearer term of 5 years. It’s hard to imagine investment $$ flowing into this environment. 700 is a longer term consideration which should see better absorption.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 11 months ago

My larger point is not that we would say no to any new application. Developers should choose their time and place given the rules of the day.

My point is we've been enticing as much construction as possible and that was a mistake. The Steamboat trend is to up-zone parcels and building mass, as the previous council did significantly at the base area. We’ve gutted regulations and codes which previously amounted to friction on development and typically created benefit to our community. We would be better off today if we had taken a more moderate approach to new development.

..

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JLM 4 years, 11 months ago

Increasing development density in locations currently fully served leverages the community's prior financial investment in services and discourages sprawl while creating critical mass and taxable density. Compact city approach.

Long term planning enables SBS to understand the long term nature of its growth dynamic. To accomplish this, the City should encourage landowners to come forward with their plans as quickly as possible.

The City cannot control the marketplace and should support its citizens in the face of market vagaries, not penalize them. The City exists to serve all of its citizens.

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