With no public discussion or input, the Steamboat Springs City Council has given up its responsibility to uphold the environmental values outlined in the Steamboat Springs Community Area Plan.
In September, the new planning director announced that the issue of disturbance of wetland areas for development purposes shall be referred to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from now on. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that’s a bad idea. A December 2008 letter from Brian Caruso, chief of the EPA’s Wetlands and Watersheds Unit Ecosystem Protection Program, about a proposed project in Betterview Business Park on 13th Street states, in part: “This project also raises broader concerns with inconsistent action by Corps personnel to implement appropriate alternative analysis for projects involving real estate development and wetland impacts.” On Sept. 6 of this year, the City Council voted to wash its hands of protecting Steamboat’s wetlands, as far as developers are concerned.
Before a decision and precedent of this magnitude is set by a staff member, you would think there would be public discussion on whether Steamboat Springs wants to give up its local control to the U.S. government in order to accommodate developers. Instead, the planning director made his decision to abdicate oversight of wetland destruction, behind closed doors.
City Council did not uphold the Community Development Code whose purpose is to, in part, “promote high air and water quality” and “protect natural resources.” The Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan was ignored. It states, “A local wetland protection program can provide for a greater degree of local control and focus more attention on protection of the resource. It can also provide greater protection for isolated wetlands, or those wetlands not considered to be ‘jurisdictional’ as a result of recent court cases.”
For years, many have worked to develop community area plans upon which the CDC is based. We wonder after many years of community input why this council has determined to disregard residents and defer to planning staff who want the U.S. government to tell us what to do.
The Army Corps of Engineers does not want control. In fact, its specifically states that projects need to gain approval from local entities to continue development and that the cities have the final say. Will we allow the city to give up control of our environmental resources?
If you agree that our community should have the final say over its own destiny, ask City Council to defend our established community goals. Do not allow 15 years of work to be dismissed. Voice your opinion now.
James W. Pavlik
Betterview Business Park property owner, Steamboat Springs