Rick Henderson turns in his ballot for the Steamboat 700 annexation vote at City Hall on Monday. Voters have until 7 p.m. today to hand in their ballots at City Hall.

Photo by Tom Ross

Rick Henderson turns in his ballot for the Steamboat 700 annexation vote at City Hall on Monday. Voters have until 7 p.m. today to hand in their ballots at City Hall.

Decision day for Steamboat 700 arrives

Ballots on proposed annexation due by 7 p.m. at City Hall

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■ Learn more about the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation here.

■ Learn more about the Let’s Vote issue committee, opposing the Steamboat 700 annexation, on at its site.

■ Learn more about the Good For Steamboat committee, supporting the Steamboat 700 annexation, on the Web here.

Vote on 700

Today is the last day to vote on the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation. City Hall is the only place for voters to receive or return their ballots, by drop-off. City Hall is open from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. today. Call City Hall at 970-879-2060 with questions.

— Steamboat Springs stands at a fork in the road today.

Until 7 p.m.

At that point, election officials will stop accepting ballots at City Hall, and city voters’ decision will be made. When the result of the Steamboat 700 annexation vote is announced, the city will set its course down a path that guides where, when and how Steamboat will grow for years to come. The decision will place the biggest milestone yet on a growth and community development planning process that began with the public formation of the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, which was adopted in 1999 and revised in 2006.

Whether Steamboat 700 and its annexation agreement with the city meet the goals and intent of that plan has been at the heart of local debate leading up to the vote that ends today.

Steamboat Springs City Clerk Julie Franklin said 3,666 Steamboat Springs residents had voted through Monday on Steamboat 700, which proposes about 2,000 homes and 380,000 square feet of commercial space on a 487-acre site just west of current city limits, throughout a 20- to 30-year timeframe for development. Voters can receive and drop-off ballots until 7 p.m. today at City Hall, 137 10th St.

Routt County elections supervisor Vicki Weber said Monday that results could be finalized shortly after 7 p.m. As soon as results are available tonight at the Routt County Courthouse, they will be posted on www.steamboatpilot.com and the newspaper’s Facebook and Twitter sites and also distributed through cell phone and e-mail alerts. Readers can sign up for those alerts here.

Chad James, of the Good For Steamboat committee, supporting the annexation, said the group is gathering tonight at a restaurant or bar that will be announced in an e-mail to supporters. Tim Rowse, of the Let’s Vote committee, opposing the annexation, said Let’s Vote has no plans for a gathering tonight.

City voters’ decision on Referendum A will determine whether to uphold Steamboat Springs City Council’s Oct. 13 approval of Steamboat 700’s annexation and the annexation agreement, which provides the framework for development at the site.

Tom Leeson, director of the city’s planning and community development department, said two paths emerge from the decision.

“If it is approved, then the property is at that point annexed into the city,” he said Monday. “From the city’s perspective, (the next step) would be to wait and see what happens with the developer moving forward with improvements and that type of thing.”

The annexation agreement places a number of requirements on Steamboat 700 before development begins at the site. The requirements include payment of $5 million to the city to begin improvements to U.S. Highway 40 west of downtown, City Coun­cil approval of the annexation’s attainable housing program and construction of infrastructure to service development.

“It would be a matter of going through the checklist to look at all the infrastructure improvements that are necessary,” Leeson said. “It could take a year or two years to get through that process.”

Those requirements are void with a “no” vote tonight.

“If it fails, then the property remains in the county, and the city no longer has any obligations in terms of the annexation agreement,” Leeson said. “If the voters vote it down … I think the city needs to go through a complete review of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan process and evaluate where, when and if it wants to grow … and that needs to be through a full, public, community process.”

The WSSAP was created as a part of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan.

The city’s vote on Steamboat 700 began when ballots were mailed last month.

For registered voters who have lost or not received a ballot, replacement ballot forms are available at City Hall and on the Web here. City Hall’s main phone number is 970-879-2060.

How we got here

Steamboat 700 would be the city’s most substantial annexation since the Mount Werner ski resort area was folded into city limits decades ago.

Steamboat 700 Principal and Project Manager Danny Mulcahy and his Las Vegas partners purchased 700 acres west of the city in 2007 for $25 million. The project is within the boundaries of the WSSAP, which contemplates growth and annexation to help accomplish a number of community goals, principally affordable housing.

The Steamboat Springs City Council approved the annexation in a 4-3 vote Oct. 13, 2009, with members Loui Antonucci, Jon Quinn, Scott Myller and Walter Magill in support. Cari Hermacinski, Steve Ivancie and Meg Bentley opposed.

In the weeks after that approval, the Let’s Vote committee led a successful petition effort that suspended the annexation and resulted in a City Council decision Dec. 15 to put Steamboat 700 to a public vote.

Members of the Let’s Vote committee have said the annexation would not do enough to provide affordable housing; would create excessive, unsolvable traffic problems; severely impact city services; present too great a risk for city finances; and face a significant chance of failure in a recessionary housing market.

Members of Good For Steamboat have said Steamboat 700 would help fulfill the goals of the WSSAP; allow “smart growth;” put needed services on the city’s west side; provide funding for needed infrastructure improvements; and provide a phased approach to development with no new costs for existing city taxpayers.

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