Pete Wither: Opportunity lost

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I’ve lived in Steamboat all my life, have seen many changes, made room for new ideas and people, and have served on the City Council and many other volunteer positions within the city. Frankly, I wouldn’t live here now if it hadn’t been for many of these changes, and most likely most of you wouldn’t be here either. It’s all made Steamboat what it is today, a great place to live.

Now that the citizens of Steamboat have spoken concerning the annexation of the Steamboat 700 property and the effective “Aspenization of Steamboat,” negating 15 years and thousands of hours spent with planning and input from the community on our future growth patterns and a developer who followed and improved upon this plan in good faith, I am encouraging those who didn’t agree with the annexation to become involved in future plans for growth for the city and for our kids and grandkids to be able to live here as we do now.

No growth is not an option. All those who voted “no” need to step up to the plate and help decide the direction. Their vote counted, but now the work begins again and hopefully we do not need to start completely over and make so many of the same mistakes as other resort communities. The time is now, when we have so many voices talking about concerns and feasible options. Let’s take that energy and use it productively and not get lost in the negativity of a “no” vote because the demands for growth will continue.

I encourage all citizens to look around and see how they can influence and make a difference for the future of this city for generations to come — that’s what we are deciding now, generations to come, not just for today. This was a lost opportunity in my opinion.

Pete Wither

Steamboat Springs

Comments

Scott Wedel 4 years, 5 months ago

Why does all the responsibility fall on those that voted against SB 700?

Maybe those advocates for growth should consider how to modify their growth proposals to gain the support of some that voted no. As a practical matter, it is silly to ask the opponents of a measure to come up with their proposal because there is no reason to believe their proposal would be acceptable to the pro growth people or even to all of the people that voted no.

If the pro growth people want proposals for growth to succeed then they just need to figure out how to get just some of the people that voted no. Even losing 61-39% means that the pro growth people need to convert 11% of the no vote. 11% of 61% is just a little bit of more than one in six no voters. For all of the reasons given by no voters, one out of six is hardly proof that SB voters fundamentally reject the concept of smart growth. For example, the posts of Steve Lewis reveal someone whom believes in smart growth, but that the SB 700 annexation agreement relied upon very optimistic assumptions to meet the affordable housing promises. I voted no because I thought it was irresponsible to expect that an annexation agreement for 2,000 units to be built over 20+ years would not have major flaws as provisions written to be reasonable today have a much different effect as things change (such wealthy residents with investment income could have an even bigger impact on AMI and so AMI would bear even less relationship to local workforce income).

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homegrown 4 years, 5 months ago

Yet here you are again Scott, saying that you voted no because you had the fear that the promises wouldn't be lived up to, not the hope that the promises would be kept. All Pete is saying is get involved for all the people who voted "no". This means coming up with a different idea on how to plan for growth. In all the responses since the no vote came through, all I see is congratulations we stopped a developer, not lets procede in this direction. It's time for everyone to step up to the plate. What are your ideas for how to move into the future?

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 4 months ago

Homegrown, I've already said that I would have voted yes for approving the first phase of an overall plan with 4 or so annexations.

I could slice off a fourth of SB 700 and say that is phase I. That would work for me. How I would slice it is probably not how the developer would slice it. So it is truly up to them to figure out how to slice it.

If the issue was that there were dozens of property owners looking to annex under the WSSAP and they had issues of unclear or counterproductive rules then that is when public input is needed. But the current issue is one developer with a large parcel wanting to get annexed under acceptable conditions. It is up to the developer to make an acceptable proposal, not the community to remove conditions under the developer accepts.

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1999 4 years, 4 months ago

I think Aspen is a town who has done growth right.

the place is great!!!!

I'd rather look like Aspen thatn Silverthorn.

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aichempty 4 years, 4 months ago

Jesus saves.

It's the Real Thing.

It takes two hands to handle a Whopper.

Growth is inevitable.

Give us a break, Pete. If growth was inevitable, the census wouldn't be essentially flat since 1990.

I agree wth George that Aspen is a nicer place to visit; not sure about living there.

Maybe being born in Steamboat is the problem. If you had lived in other places and had to deal with real problems people face in other areas, you might have a different point of view.

I believe that all the people who mobilized to get out the very successful "no" vote by a significant margin DID do something to direct the future of the community. They stopped us from being burdened with an albatross around our necks for the next 30 years.

Hanging growth hopes on a tourist economy is not a very smart way to go. Honestly, I think growth is going to make us look more like Glenwood Springs than Aspen because we're just not swanky enough to attract the Aspen crowd. We get affluent cheapskates who pay big bucks for houses and then demand Wal-Mart prices for everything else.

Planning for growth which was never destined to occur, and probably never will be, was just a pipe dream all along. The economy and resources are not here to support it, and we won't see a return of the boom days for many years to come, if ever.

The credit/housing bubble will not come again in our lifetimes, so get over it. SB700 was never going to be anything but a promise with no ability to deliver because it was ten years too late to deliver the goods. That's not how it was planned, but that's how Wall Street and the mortgage brokers and the government easy credit demands for those unable to pay made it turn out.

The discussions regarding the story about the "fill rate" predicting construction starts contains a link to an article describing how people who were living in million dollar houses and making $250,000 to $600,000 per year in the mortgage business are losing their homes to foreclosure. Go read up on that. It's just over, and may never come back.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 4 months ago

Pete will fall into the "old guard category" and all that I know favored the 700 approach. All of this category that I know have worked here for decades in the private sector making a buck in order to survive. We have seen the valley grow and have the benefit of experience to be able to project future problems. We didn't always enjoy the growth but I think we have the wisdom to see, and not micromanage or close the gate as the 700 denial does. We have seen the results of no growth and we know this pitfall well. We have seen many peaks and valleys economically and there is little substitute for experience, although most everyone claims to be the expert. We know the feeling when our youth must leave to find a dragon to slay. Mostly we are here because it is home and our priority is on the long term outlook for the valley. Our motive is constantly being questioned, but we called this valley home long before it was fashionable or profitable to live here.

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1999 4 years, 4 months ago

I've lived here 27 years and don't feel Pete and the rest of the realators represent my needs.

again I say..lets take our town back from the realators and realestate based economy.

it's people like pete who have turned our town into real estate opportunity.

he may care about the direction of the town but only in regards to how it affects his bank account.

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aichempty 4 years, 4 months ago

Fred,

Your business currently depends on construction, as we know from waiting for the pilot car while CR-129 was paved back in the 90s. You've always done good work and good people who do good work will always be in demand around here.

Preparing SB700 for 2000 homes during a time when nobody can buy what's on the market today would have been the epitome of fiscal irresponsibilty.

Inflation in housing prices hit us where it really hurts; in our economic base of year-round residents. The people who are left are struggling. They want everything to be cheaper. We cannot have a thriving business community when McDonald's is the major employer and biggest business on Lincoln Ave.

I don't see any way for construction costs to get cheaper. A person or couple making $100,000 a year is not going to be able to afford more than $250,000 in financing anymore as the financial world returns to its senses. How many of your own employees are making $100,000 a year? Can you pay equipment operators enough to afford to buy a $400,000 home? If not, the fabled "growth" everyone was "planning" for is never going to occur.

So far, I haven't seen the housing customers of tomorrow flocking into town with bulging checkbooks. Nobody is counting on appreciation anymore. Housing values are flat, or falling. When you buy a house today, don't plan on being able to sell it if things don't work out.

Maybe you should renegotiate your equipment leases, cut staff, bid low on road maintenance and snow removal for HOAs and dig in for the rest of the recession. That's what every other business will do if they plan to survive it.

There will be time to plan for growth when, and if, anything ever starts growing again. That's what happened 15 years ago, remember? It didn't come true the way it was planned because the wealth that drove our recent growth and housing prices out of reach for working locals was all speculative and artificial. Planners who don't have control over the variables in the problem are not planners; they are wishful thinkers. Housing for full-time residents failed because prices went out of control and locals could not keep up with them while working for $15 an hour.

We've all got to change our business models and deal with what we have. The banks that funded the growth in the roaring zeroes won't do it again. They would like to, but they cannot.

The growth you've seen over the years was always caused by factors external to Steamboat Springs. We were just a side effect. Like a rash at the injection site.

People living in Steamboat have depended on outsiders to pay the bills. We're now learning what happens when outsiders run out of money. Oops. Now what?

One thing for sure; growth is not the alligator closest to our canoe, and won't be for a long time to come. Ability to repay is the new rule, and you don't guarantee that by working for wages in a tourist town.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 4 months ago

I agree with Scott. SB700 would have passed if they had come in with a smaller enchilada, as requested by the City.

I was personally against it because the WSSAP affordability requirement was only half delivered and their attainability promises were not put into writing. As I've said before, I was not particularly pleased with the end result. Many people put a lot of time into SB700's process. In my opinion, City Council ignored the bulk of serious public comment in creating the agreement, and left 61% of us behind.

The existing plans are fine. Just bring something with 500 units that fits into an 8-10 year time frame. 2,000 units and a 40 year plan was just too much risk.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 4 months ago

Lewi, They need the larger commitment in order to think about funding the bag of goodies that we want.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 4 months ago

Committing to the entire parcel was requested by SB 700. It was their explanation that they had to do that. I think they failed to explain that justification.

Seems to me that if the development lived up to it's promises then it would have had minimal problems getting subsequent annexation approved.

Seems to me that they would going to lay in the infrastructure needed only for a particular phase, but sized for the entire parcel. They were not going to pave all the streets and lay in all the pipes so that some of it is 20+ years old prior to building in some areas. Regardless of annexation or construction phase, all infrastructure is going to be sized according to the density of the WSSAP so first phase is going to have big pipes and so on.

An obvious reason for the developers to annex the entire parcel was so that the promises were no longer that important because there was an annexation agreement (contract). The situation with the Trousils have once again shown the gulf between promises and a contract.

Such as it is a fundamental misunderstanding of statistics to take percentages of a median (AMI) because the meaning of that number today should be expected to mean something different as the median changes. The proper method would have been to use a standard deviation, not a percentage. The size of that error over a few years would be minimal, but over 20 years probably would have been huge.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 4 months ago

Somehow we have a health bill shoved down our throats that makes this deal look like gold. 700 made a big practical error when they did not use Chicago tactics to force their will. From listening to the administration we are led to believe that everybody does it.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 4 months ago

Fred, This thread isn't about health care, but here's a poll you should consider next to your words: http://www.steamboatpilot.com/polls/2010/mar/what-do-you-think-recently-passed-federal-health-c/

Similarly, Pete Wither should consider his comment more broadly, given 61% of Steamboat felt this council struck the wrong deal. Pete has it completely backwards. We updated the WSSAP in 2006 to better suit Mary Brown's needs. I was there. Doing it again to better suit Danny's needs? Not.

Moving the goal posts just doesn't work. Next time just pay better heed to what City staff and the public tells you.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 4 months ago

Steve, I keep telling you to stop polling chapters of Acorn for your propaganda. The 700 should definitely be in place before the five acre fiasco from the county is considered.

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aichempty 4 years, 4 months ago

The health care bill is also something that will not result in coverage for everybody who wants it.

I have heard information this week from people giving briefings to the Department of Defense regarding the fiscal future of government programs in light of the health care bill. Many critical upgrades to things like computer systems and supporting infrastructure are going to sit and wait if health care comes to be as it was passed.

In the rest of the country, people are going to be voting for jobs and smaller government next November. It is a bona fide fiscal fact that when the government takes money from wealthy people and gives it to poor people the economy cannot grow as fast as it would when the government lets wealthy people spend their money the way they want to . . . like to go skiing.

Fred's five-acre fiasco is exactly what people are going to be looking for when "growth" returns. Sixty luxury homes are going to do a whole lot more for Steamboat than 2000 cracker boxes would have accomplished, especially since there's no market for the smaller homes because they still cost more than working locals can afford to pay. When there are vacant lots in Hayden, and nobody is building over there, it's because there's no "real" demand for lower-cost housing in this area. Practical people with jobs and a work ethic are not going to be put off by a 15 minute increase in their commute.

I learned the hard way that in Steamboat, you have to sell what people want to buy. You go broke selling what you want to sell. If people want to provide affordable housing for their kids and employees, then the answer is simple. All those homes that sold for $200k or less back between 1987 and 1997 would be "affordable" today. So, when the people who own them now are ready to move along, they should sell them for just enough to pay the realtor's fees plus their original purchase price. All you have to do is convince them that it's the "right" thing to do.

The WSSAP only proves that wishful thinking is not a plan.

Growth is not inevitable. If it was, it would never have stopped during this Recession.

The next "boom" we're going to hear is the door slamming on the Obama Administration and the current Democratic Senators and Representatives. Give us five years after that for any real growth in real estate to occur around here.

People in this valley are out of touch with reality. People in the mountainous portions of this state are truly high on pie in the sky and need to learn about the rest of the country, because that's where the money comes from to power the ski town economies.

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greenwash 4 years, 4 months ago

How come the majority of the Realtors in this town are so stupid?

I didnt say all, just most . Pete do you really think we care what you thiink?

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 4 months ago

Greenhorn. Pete has paid his dues many times over. He has found a job to pay the bills, as we all must. When the ski area first broke ground they decided that the local sawmill must go. This trend continues as the resort community strives to prevent competition for low cost labor. Let's eliminate the city sales tax on industry and invite business in so Pete will not have to seek one of the only decent paying jobs in ;the area. We are now going after the bicycle crowd, nice jobs for our youth, but nothing there to take to the bank. We need good paying jobs but that idea is nowhere on the horizon.

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greenwash 4 years, 4 months ago

Fred time to pass the torch your memory is fading fast.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 4 months ago

Lefty bloggers constantly attack those in the private sector that generates all wealth in our society. The biggest drain we have is from public- union pay and benefits to guarantee their well being all the way to the grave, yet these people somehow get a pass from the left. I wonder when Pete's last sale was closed? I wonder about his retirement and benefit package? When he makes a sale we can all chastize him for his greed and the fact that he made more that day than we did. If he puts his retirement money into a bad investment will he be bailed out by the taxpayers as the public employees are? Knee jerk lefties have a way to go but one thing is certain, you will get in the last word.

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Duke_bets 4 years, 4 months ago

fred - All the good paying jobs were ruined by greed. Nothing to do with the lefties. However, I do appreciate how much sleep you have lost since Obama took over. Based on all of your blogs, he seems to control every one of your thoughts. If the Dems are for, you are against. If Obama likes, fred hates.

And, the 'generates all wealth' comment is difficult to respond to without being rude. What's the private sectors bankruptcy / default rate vs the public sector? Or, are you just talking about gains and not losses?

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 4 months ago

Dukey, I rest my case, govrnment can't fail regardless of their efficiency. Failure of private business is survival of the fittest. They can't print or borrow indefinitely like the Feds, maybe the fact that no one will lend them 13 trillion might explain sometning. We are top heavy with government and entitlements devoid of checks and balances.

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