Our View: City Council disappoints with CMC response

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Editorial Board, August through December 2010

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  • Sue Birch, community representative

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— Colorado Mountain College wants to expand and upgrade its Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs, but it has encountered a Steamboat Springs City Council that college officials diplomatically call “lukewarm” regarding the proposal.

Actually, the council’s response has been baffling.

CMC has 11 campuses in western Colorado, and it has chosen the Steamboat site for a new geoexchange facility — a project that could cost $23 million with an access road figured in. The sticking point is that second road to the campus, required by an intergovernmental agreement between CMC and the city.

CMC and city planning staff members have identified the ideal site for the access road as 13th Street. That preference results from a 16-month, $500,000 planning process with the city.

But at their Sept. 7 meeting, council members expressed hesitation about building the road there. Some members suggested alternate routes, such as via 12th Street. City Planner Seth Lorson reminded council that staff has “looked at all these alternative accesses” and deemed the 13th Street intersection the most viable.

Councilwoman Meg Bentley expressed reservations that connecting to 13th Street would require cutting into the little-used Iron Springs Park and the more-popular West Lincoln Park.

“This is going to so negatively impact the historic hot springs and the park,” she said. “I love the college, I love what it does for our community … but this road is not right. I want to look at alternatives.”

Bentley’s point about park impacts is reasonable; however, city planning staff exists to work through development issues and help a potential developer form the best plan.

Although the council certainly should ask tough questions and carefully examine such projects, at some point members must trust that staff already has examined issues including road alternatives.

What are the city’s other concerns?

Councilman Jon Quinn questioned whether the hilltop site could handle the college’s future growth.

“There are huge challenges to this particular site and this particular project,” Quinn said. “If you’re going to outgrow this site in 20 years, then maybe this isn’t the right project.”

If this isn’t the right project, it’s unclear what CMC, city planners and the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission have been working toward the past 16 months. And it’s difficult to think that CMC plans to pour $23 million into an expansion project without having considered the future.

Another issue that has come up about the proposed road is traffic. We’re skeptical that the impact to the so-called 13th Street “bottleneck” is a legitimate reason to scuttle the plan. At the Sept. 7 meeting, council members repeatedly praised the college for its contributions to the community. What they should do is demonstrate their appreciation by striving toward a project that meets the needs of CMC and of Steamboat.

CMC President Stan Jensen has said negotiations have been amicable. But the council has given a clear sign to the college that it could be a waste to pour more money into the project as proposed. “It’s not like we haven’t considered everything the city has asked us to consider,” Jensen has said. “We’re not going to spend another half-million dollars looking at it again.”

So the college is examining other options, such as exploring other locations in Steamboat and Routt County as satellite campuses or moving the whole campus within the area. CMC also could review the Craw­ford Spur off 12th Street, a temporary fire and emergency services access, for the secondary access road, Jensen said this week.

The council has sent a negative signal by stymieing CMC with onerous requests that it go back to already-considered sites for this road. The college is a valuable partner for this community, and it’s growing, earning permission recently to start building four-year degree programs. The City Council should view the college as the economic and social growth force that it is.

When a local educational entity comes forward with a request to build an innovative $23 million project during a recession, the city should work in good faith to make the proposal a reality.

Comments

Scott Wedel 3 years, 6 months ago

I would also add that something is seriously wrong between city council and city staff if staff can work with CMC for 16 months to come up with a proposal only for City Council to disagree.

So City Council never discusses any topics with staff to understand what is going on, but allows staff to spend months working with CMC on a plan for City Council to say fails to consider numerous issues?

City Council does not need to be recalled yet, but they need to recognize that they and staff need to be on the same page.

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boater1 3 years, 6 months ago

who here spends anytime at iron spring park? like me, i'm guessing everyone took a peak when they first moved to town and that's it. don't of course destroy the spring but it's not used land period!

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boater1 3 years, 6 months ago

so city council is spending $ on emerald yet not wanting to do what brings in tax base? my guess is most city council members will be on their way out.

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Jon Quinn 3 years, 6 months ago

Time to set the record straight… The night CMC presented to us they presented 5 major questions to council. 5 potential deal breakers, if you will…

1.Does Council wish to proceed with review of this proposal? 2.Does the City want to accept a roadway that varies from roadway standards and agree to maintain the roadway and retaining walls? 3.Will the City negotiate with CMC for cost sharing intersection improvements? 4.Would the City be party to a requested variance for requirement of a dedicated right/deceleration turn lane? (This entrance is right in the middle of our “bottleneck” and CDOT recommends a turn lane – the turn lane would mean even greater expense and greater impact to the parkland adjacent.) 5.Would the City consider participating in condemnation of parkland necessary for road construction?

On each of these questions I personally, and the council majority, voted yes to support the compromises necessary to make the project move forward for the college. As I said that night, I wholly support the role of the college in Steamboat. We all want them to succeed. But when one looks over that list of questions, it is understandable that concerns would arise about the details of the road plan. The paper does a fine job of creating more controversy than it has any right to, and comments taken out of context rarely capture the full message. Let us not further sensationalize this issue and let things run their course. If I have anything to say about it, CMC will always find a strong partner in the City of Steamboat.

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John Fielding 3 years, 6 months ago

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Thank you Jon, that specific information was lacking from the reported story. Your statement, hopefully together with a few more from other council members should be published in the print edition where far more can read it than here. If the paper declines to publish it then should be placed in the City page to assure that not just the reporters interpretations make print. And please send a copy to President Jensen.

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John Fielding 3 years, 6 months ago

it would also be helpful for the paper to inform its readers of specific vote tallies on important issues, to allow the voters to decide who best represents their interests.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 6 months ago

Jon, Those appear to be valid questions. But how does city staff work with CMC for 16 months before those questions are asked?

If you all took office a couple weeks after a contentious election then it would be understandable how directions to staff would significantly change. But you all have been in office far too long for city staff to have spent so much time working with CMC for the City Council to have so many basic questions regarding the road.

As for blaming the paper for taking comments out of context and creating controversy, it appears that Jensen and CMC are interpreting City Council's comments pretty closely to the paper's reporting of the comments.

And questioning if the hillside location can handle future growth is a fundamentally stupid thing to do. Obviously, we expect that people spending $20+M on an expansion have considered the suitability of the chosen site, but what if they had not considered if the site can handle future growth? That would cause them to find a new site for the campus, quite probably on the edge of Hayden instead of staying in SB for another 20+ years. So thank you Jon for showing CMC they need to move their campus now instead of 20 years from now.

And amazingly enough, this city council member fails to recognize his mistakes but chooses to blame the media.

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Stewart Beall 3 years, 6 months ago

I think it would be helpful if the City Council would make an unequivocal public statement that they are aggressively working with CMC to insure the expansion will be in Steamboat. Not only are the short and long tax base benefits significant, but the best part of the CMC addition would be the educational opportunities for the Yampa Valley, to include college educations for our young adults and retraining and ongoing education for all adults. This is a no brainer.

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Jon Quinn 3 years, 6 months ago

Scott, there is always more to a story than the Pilot reports. Why don't you take me up on that cup of coffee sometime? Clearly you have the time to spare. I am happy to sit down with you and address any concerns you have one on one. Calling people stupid or insulting them in a blog is just not a productive way to have a conversation.

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marshallsenterprises 3 years, 6 months ago

jonquinn, The quote that bugs me is"The paper does a fine job of creating more controversy than it has any right to"... As I remeber, we are in America, and Im pretty sure we have an ammendment protecting the right to free press. Look it up, its there. Remember, the job is to represent not present. The Republic for which it stands. Thank you.

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ftpheide 3 years, 6 months ago

marshalls, The paper is a "scapegoat" for alot of people.

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marshallsenterprises 3 years, 6 months ago

ftpheide,

So the paper is the one to bear the blame of others??? I am confused how the paper could be a "scapegoat" for others? Blame the paper for asking questions? Questions need to be asked, especially when we are talking about elected officials and whimsical solutions and ideaologys.

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ftpheide 3 years, 6 months ago

marshalls, Your right , the paper should not be used as a "scapegoat." It's easy to just blame the paper. Alot of people take advantage of this. I'll restate my original comment - The paper is often used as a "scapegoat" for alot of people.

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