Danny Mulcahy gets a hug from his planner Peter Patton after learning that the Steamboat 700 annexation was voted down.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Danny Mulcahy gets a hug from his planner Peter Patton after learning that the Steamboat 700 annexation was voted down.

Broad reactions in wake of Steamboat 700 election

Voters’ denial of annexation spurs celebration, regret across city

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Mulcahy addresses supporters

Steamboat 700 developer Danny Mulcahy addresses his supporters after learning voters voted down the annexation.

Steamboat 700 developer Danny Mulcahy addresses his supporters after learning voters voted down the annexation.

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What's next?

Steamboat 700 developer Danny Mulcahy talks about what is next now that voters have chosen not to allow the annexation.

Steamboat 700 developer Danny Mulcahy talks about what is next now that voters have chosen not to allow the annexation.

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Voting precincts

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How Steamboat voted

— Steamboat 700 supporters and opponents agreed on one thing Tuesday night: Voters’ rejection of the annexation means it’s time for the city to update its community plan and rethink how to handle growth in coming years.

That process will play out during the months ahead in a long-term, community effort. In the short term Tuesday night, in the wake of Steamboat 700’s defeat by more than 20 percent of the 4,253 votes cast, there was plenty of sadness and regret at Rex’s American Grill & Bar, where members of the Good For Steamboat committee and other annexation supporters gathered on a March election night in Steamboat Springs. And there was celebration and optimism among members of the Let’s Vote committee, which opposed the annexation. They did not have a gathering but toasted the victory nonetheless.

“I am celebrating with a strong dollop of bourbon tonight,” e-mailed longtime Steamboat resident Omar Campbell, one of the first to publicly call for a citywide vote on Steamboat 700. “This is a real plebiscite on rampant growth that is going to cause our elected officials and developers to look at their hole-cards a lot closer in the future.”

Let’s Vote spokesman Tim Rowse, in an e-mail summarizing reactions from the committee, said he hopes local officials closely examine voters’ message.

“There are many reasons people voted ‘no.’ It’s important we find out why people voted ‘no’ and incorporate this into city and county policy,” Rowse said. “Going forward, an update to the community area plan is due. The city and county have the opportunity to learn from this vote and engage with the community to chart a course forward.”

City Manager Jon Roberts said an update of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan is indeed due and is the next major project for planning staff.

Steamboat 700 supporters said that update could mean starting from scratch. Much of the annexation debate focused on whether Steamboat 700 met the goals of the city’s West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, last updated in 2006.

“To me, a ‘no’ vote on Steamboat 700 is essentially a ‘no’ vote on the WSSAP,” Steamboat 700 consultant and former Yampa Valley Housing Authority staffer Curtis Church said Tuesday at Rex’s. “I don’t believe a better deal is going to come along.”

Third-generation resident Steve Elkins, 62, called voters’ denial an “embarrassment for the community.”

“They just voted for Steam­boat to become Aspen,” said Elkins, citing the possibility of growth spreading across the Yampa Valley rather than in a centralized location.

Steamboat 700 principal and project manager Danny Mul­cahy was calm after the loss.

“This was a defining moment in Steamboat’s future,” he said.

Mulcahy added that Steam­boat 700 LLC will explore several options for the site.

“I’m not going away,” he said.

He thanked his supporters earlier Tuesday.

“There’s probably thousands of people to thank,” he said. “There’s been a lot of people who put a lot of time and energy into this — and it’s a credit to the community. It’s an absolute credit to the community, the citizens taking ownership of what happens in the future — you don’t see a lot of that in some communities.”

New plan, new director

Tom Leeson, the city’s director of planning and community development, leaves his position April 1 to attend the University of Maryland and work toward a master’s degree.

Roberts said the city has received more than 90 applications for Leeson’s position and interviews will start next week.

Steamboat Springs City Coun­cil President Cari Hermacinski said Leeson’s replacement will need experience with infill, or growth within city limits.

Let’s Vote members cited infill as one of several growth alternatives to annexation.

A public discussion about infill is Thursday when the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission has a public work session from 5 to 6:30 p.m. City planner Jason Peasley said the topic is changes to zoning regulations to allow more density in the city’s core, particularly along U.S. Highway 40.

Comments

John Fielding 4 years, 6 months ago

I am not sure that the messege sent by the vote has nearly as much do do with the WSSAP as the article indicates. The more thoughtful comments on the blog of the first announcement indicated support for both that and the developers plan. The major opposition seems to have been about the size and the potential for failure to deliver. Other points concern details of the annexation agreement. It is that agreement that needs re-examination.

I agree it is time for a review of the WSSAP, every 5 years seems like a reasonable interval. But I don't anticipate it will be substantially different. I would hope for but not expect provisions that would reduce the cost to provide new homes and businesses. Instead we will probably see added burdens in the name of community benefit.

Nonetheless I am willing to go forward as a participant in the process. I hope as many as voted will make their positions known during the update as well.

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kathy foos 4 years, 6 months ago

In the article above ,Tim Rouse states that the county learn lessons from this election and the whole valley wasnt represented,so how can you say that Tim?Wishfull thinking I guess.Enjoy your bourbon,but John Fielding is right that this could become the next Aspen now,whoopee.Your vote does not represent what the rest of the county has to say,never once in all of these debates have I seen any concern about what the rest of the valley thinks and now you assume that a majority of all voters are in your pocket?Or should be?Your group just made time go backward by defeating this .Any way hopefully the rest of the county dosent want " no growth ".This election says nothing to the county voters.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 6 months ago

John, I agree with you completely. We are due for plan updates, but the plans don't need much change. In my opinion the current plans need one minor change: keep annexations small enough that we haven't locked in a massive 30 year guess.

I'm not particularly pleased with this defeat of 700. They worked hard. As much as the Pilot and Jon Roberts would like to say the plans were wrong, the truth is these leaders were wrong. The Pilot and City Council, by taking a pro-development line on the 700 package, veered away from the area plan. Neither attainability or affordability were guaranteed in the final package!

A moderate newspaper and council would have led us to a better agreement.

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lowclasslocal 4 years, 6 months ago

The pilot frequently goes to some realtor (advertising customer) for comments.I think Steve Elkins in wrong. If Steamboat is going to become aspen, then is Hayden or Oak Creek going to become Glenwood or Carbondale? He is probably just sick of stagnant, overpriced, speculative real estate listings like so many other folks in Steamboat. Some people make a crapload of money living in Steamboat and like it, some people just like living in Steamboat. Looks like the majority just like living in Steamboat. I say Good for Steamboat for voting for what they wanted for the community, lots of people make their money on people from out of town coming here, but those same people chose quality of life over profit. sb700 committed to this development before the real poo hit the fan in the housing market, I am glad Steamboat didn't cave so they could make good on their investment at the town's expense.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 6 months ago

The Pilot is applying HEAVY SPIN to the meaning of the No vote. They want to do what Curtis wants to do, re-write our plans to accommodate development's end of the deal.

Mike Lawrence: "City Manager Jon Roberts said an update of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan is indeed due and is the next major project for planning staff."

Mike put that quote in the middle of this article and it sounds like Jon is reacting to this vote. That's the way it reads for sure. But the truth is Jon's interview was YESTERDAY, before the vote was known, so the truth is his comment was NOT a reaction to the vote.

Spin, spin, spin. All saying the area plans need to be fixed.

That is complete bs.

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CedarBeauregard 4 years, 6 months ago

I think the turning point was when PC and CC specifically were asked "how big should this be. What is the total build-out going to be?"

They were reluctant to hold 700 to the WSSAP's limitations and I think that was a disservice to 700.

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Curtis Church 4 years, 6 months ago

Lewi, I was a supporter long before I was paid by SB700. The plan needs to address the inconsistencies with "public benefit" and "affordable housing." Giving current residents a laundry list of capital improvements and then still wanting affordable housing that someone who works a service job in town are overly competing to make it pencil. If the major goal of the WSSAP is affordable housing, then we need to take some the cost off the shoulders of the developer to make the project less expensive. The housing authority needs affordable land to make it work. They have turned over every piece of vacant land that is available for sale to purchase most times to expensive or has major engineering issues to address.

I know you have ownership of the WSSAP because you were involved in its development. I just disagree that IF the major focus is housing, we may have to settle for less public benefit to have the housing delivered. That is why I believe the plan needs to be rewritten with real financial ability to produce what is required.

By the way, I am no longer employed now that the vote is come to its conclusion, but still a housing advocate!!

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 6 months ago

Curtis, We have opposite perspectives, its true.

As a City planning commissioner, I had a birds eye view of the last WSSAP update. Essentially there was a gallery of one - Mary Brown. To many, and it was at least half true, as the real owner of most of the WSSAP land Mary held all the cards. I still thought we reached a fair accord. In retrospect though, our one mistake was allowing a huge monopoly parcel to be annexed.

With a limit on parcel annexation size, the result today would have been different. This was just too large of a gamble. Its size garnered it more helpful scrutiny, but the community faith was not there.

And with a slower economy making this 700 deal a 30-40 year proposition, Scott Wedel has it so right - we don't want to tie ourselves to a 40 year master plan.

I completely disagree with you that we made this too expensive for Danny, i.e. the argument that we have piled too much infrastructure on SB700. Witness the infrastructure already maxed in our existing sewer capacity today. Growth has a bad habit of not paying its way.

This vote, in my opinion, would have succeeded IF building and selling the 400 affordable housing units was fully Danny’s responsibility and IF his promise of attainability ever made it into writing. Some of my peers who also attended months of 700 meetings voted no on that count, because both affordability and were left hanging on good luck.

Danny could have done those important things hands down, turned us into supporters, and still made a handsome profit. Unfortunately, I believe Danny's pro-forma has a much shorter fuse.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 6 months ago

typo...

both affordability and attainability were left hanging on good luck.

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aichempty 4 years, 6 months ago

There is no current market for what SB700 was selling.

The voters chose not to burden themselves with it.

No need to over-analyze it. SB700 was a victim of the housing/liar loan bubble.

The voters were smart enough to realize that we're not in a "growth" phase (and probably never will be again in our lifetimes) and avoid the needless expense of preparing for it 20 or 30 years in advance.

I once tried to sell higher quality products than the chain store next door, for competitive prices. The chain store is still there. My place has been closed for many years. People wanted what was cheap and predictable, or cheap and familiar, or whatever, but in any case I wasn't selling what they wanted.

Such is the same with the City Council, WSSAP, etc. SB700 was a very Gucci idea that would have been great in other times, or if presented to a different set of voters. People around here are worried about nickels and dimes, and things that cost more, even when they're better, lose out. That's why Boggs is closed and Wal-Mart is open.

The risk is not that we become another Aspen. The risk is that Mt. Werner goes out of business and Steamboat becomes East Hayden.

The average person in Steamboat is not worried about anyone else in any material manner. The live-and-let-live anything goes attitudes about drugs and booze and paying taxes and all that does indeed spill over into "I've got mine; what's the problem?" when it comes to what's "good for the community." People don't support local business when it comes down to dollars and cents, and it's the same all around with everything else. Don't forget, this town thinks that its expenses should be paid by tourists through sales and lodging taxes. Most people would LOVE IT if affordable housing was built and given away at reduced prices, but will they give their own dollars to benefit someone else? Not likely. That's just how it is.

The City Council needs to take note that the voters have spoken on the issue of city dollars going to benefit private parties. When folks speak out for "affordable housing" they need to understand that most people who are already comfortable in their own homes are saying, "whatever," and are not worried about anything else. That's why the vote was 2 to 1 against SB700.

And thank God it's over. It's been like the sky was falling around here for months.

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TWill 4 years, 6 months ago

Aich- so you counter "the sky is falling" tone set by SB700 with Ski Corp is going out of business and will be liquidated? Way to settle things down...

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John Fielding 4 years, 6 months ago

If Skicorp goes on the block we might find it bought by a foreign interest and need to learn Chinese. It happened back in about 69 but that foreign interest was LTV from the sovereign republic of Texas, and we had to learn to understand their lingo.

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best4steamboat 4 years, 6 months ago

Let's get back to the basics about why voters ultimately denied this project.

First, it had no guarantee of "affordable" housing. Even if SB700 had agreed to pay for the 400 units on 15 acres, this would have resulted only in substandard housing in that there would be almost 27 units per acre.

Most voters realized that even the most highly employed of our workers, i.e. nurses, teachers, could not even afford the most "affordable" homes being promised at $408,000, with 20 percent down, or $80,000, and monthly payments of more than $2,000 a month.

Also, the annexation would have comprised 2,000 units of the 2,600 total units in the WSSAP. It is unfeasible for the WSSAP to continue to promote a "self-contained community" in which residents would live and work and have little reason to travel into downtown or east of Steamboat to go to Mt. Werner, Howelsen Hill, or to get their students to the middle or high schools for events and activities. Everyone must get involved in the revising of the WSSAP. This plan is now obsolete.

Growth needs to occur from Steamboat Springs outward! Not from outward inward. This is a basic tenant of planning.

Phased growth of the SB700 plan, while better than all at once, is not a viable alternative. The area is too far out from the growth center of Steamboat Springs.

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pitpoodle 4 years, 6 months ago

This vote was not only a referendum on SB 700 but also on the Steamboat Pilot and Today, city council, and city staff. Long live the people's voice.

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JLM 4 years, 6 months ago

One must respect the will of the people when in a democratic environment their voice is summoned and roars with clarity. Of course, on the other hand, a bad idea held by a majority does not become a good idea.

Today we sit with the SB 700 annexation issue resolved for likely a considerable time or more likely forever. Resolution is a good thing as it allows everybody to get back to reality.

One of those realities is that we are not one inch closer to solving the issue of affordable housing in SBS. Not one inch closer.

A year from today --- regardless of what your view on affordable housing might be --- will we be any closer?

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housepoor 4 years, 6 months ago

if home prices and rents keep falling we will be a whole lot closer

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ybul 4 years, 6 months ago

Yes, the market is correcting, excessive debt instruments have gone or are going away, which is deflating the value of homes.

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aichempty 4 years, 6 months ago

Over there in Las Vegas, they have these things called "casinos" where people walk in the front door and give away their money. People are attracted to do this by the promise of excitement, flashing lights, instant wealth, and lots of other similar reasons including the compulsion to gamble. In the end, the "house" (the casino) ALWAYS wins. They make SURE they will always win. They are only required by the state gaming commission to give back a percentage of what they take in as winnings. The odds and rules of the games ensure it.

SB700 was using the same kind of marketing approach. The promise of something for nothing (FREE LAND!), and the well-hidden potential cost to the City to provide potable water (favoring the "house," SB700) sucked a lot of people in.

The pitch laid down by fast-talking Sin-City boys could have turned this community into a bunch of S-U-C-K-E-R-S if the voters had not smelled something funny and stopped it.

One could assume that SB700 profits over 20 to 30 years would be plenty to cover the estimated $34.5 million dollar cost of potable and waste water infrastructure improvements. The thing is, they were not willing to put that money up front and be paid back over the years. They wanted the City to take that risk.

The voters, whether they voted on the infrastructure cost issue or not, decided not to take the risk.

The fact that SB700 didn't rush in with $34.5 million bucks pledged to cover the expense if the annexation passed speaks volumes about their assessment of the financial risks. If SB700 had been a sure thing for them profit-wise, they'd have found the money and the vote might have turned out differently. They were making sure the house wasn't taking a risk on the future of SB700, shifting that burden to the City. In the end, the voters decided not to gamble.

So, if the people who would benefit most from a good thing in the long run were not willing to take the risk, that tells us we dodged a huge potential bullet.

SB700 made a smart business decision in the end. So did the voters.

And, in the end, nobody lost out on "affordable" housing. That was all a well-played scam that sought to pay a little bit of money into a system that could never accomplish the goal with the amount of money that would have been generated.

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