Omar M. Campbell: Put growth up to vote


Some three decades ago, at a public forum on growth, a speaker said “Grow or die. Perish.” Growth is the Holy Grail of business and governments from federal to local. The more people to spend and make the cash registers ring, the better.

That’s well and good up to a point. But when that point has been reached, it is time to back off. Steamboat has reached that point, mostly because its transportation infrastructure now is overloaded.

Forty years ago, a bypass was proposed to divert some local and U.S. Highway 40 through-traffic off Main Street to Yampa Street. The idea died from opposition by the downtown merchants. Because of development on each end of Yampa, it no longer is an option.

The referendum vote defeated the Steamboat 700 property annexation by 61 percent and negated the 4 to 3 approval vote of the City Council at the time. Sixty-one percent showed that a significant majority of public opinion is against big-time wholesale growth.

Three of the four council members who voted for 700 still are on the council. The ideologies of the other four newer electees are unknown. Readers in all council districts are urged to make their views on the Urban Growth Boundary known to their representatives. It is easy with e-mail. Addresses are the first name initial and full last name. For example:

The Routt County commissioners in office at the time of the referendum voted 2 to 1 for the annexation. One remains in office and his bias for growth is known. The biases of the two new electees are unknown. Their addresses would be:

Some tourists come here in the snow-free season to enjoy the relative “small town” atmosphere. We would be shooting ourselves in the feet to allow unrestricted growth and sprawl to become any worse than they already are.

Except possibly for some minor adjustments — such as including occupied lots joining the UGB that already are receiving city services — let’s leave the UGB as it is. The council could do this in-house. In-fill should be the goal; then one house, one business at a time.

We should have learned something from the flawed West Steamboat Springs Area Plan. Having plans prepared without considering public opinion are worse than no plans at all.

If local elected officials feel that we need big-time growth again, they must put it up for a public vote.

An advocate for slow, controlled growth,

Omar M. Campbell

Steamboat Springs


Thomss Steele 3 years, 3 months ago

We must remain a viable presence for tourism nation wide. Please do it respectfully and with balance but Grow Steamboat Grow!


Neil O'Keeffe 3 years, 3 months ago

It would be downright unAmerican to do anything else. Our entire economic model is based on needless growth and consumption and that isn't about to change anytime soon. Sustainability like Socialism is becoming a dirty word. To paraphrase Gandhi "We must be the change we wish to see in the world." Cheers!


Scott Wedel 3 years, 3 months ago

At least in the public meetings on this issue, the rule changes are not seen as being about growth. They are talking about being able to make modest adjustments and, in particular, that some applications have made arguments that there is not much of a reason why the current UGB line is at the current location in the area of their property. They are not talking about changing the community plans that describe preserving various areas as greenbelts and so on.

Also, expanding the UGB is not the same as allowing growth. The UGB is mostly an agreement between the city and county that the city will not consider annexations outside of the UGB. Any property within the UGB would still have to be annexed by SB.

The county commissioners have said that the current criteria for moving the UGB is probably impossible for any application to meet because of the wording. And so the proposed changes to UGB criteria is primarily to allow applicants to be able to make their case that their application conforms to the various area plans And, if so, then allow the applicant to proceed to trying to reach an annexation agreement with City of SB.

City of SB Planning in their presentations last summer stated that they believe SB has enough vacant land to handle years of growth via infill. Overall, I have not seen anything suggesting that allowing changes to the UGB is part of a growth plan.


bill schurman 3 years, 3 months ago

Omar, I couldn't agree more with your comments. My sentiments exactly.


Steve Lewis 3 years, 3 months ago

In my opinion, the SB700 defeat was not a vote against wholesale growth, or proof of a flawed West Area Plan. There were a myriad of parameters for one's vote. Yes, huge scale of the annexation was one, but the economy was tanking, etc… We have little or no say in whether our growth is slow or booming. We only have some say about the density we can stand in a given neighborhood. Put differently, we can send growth to the West or squeeze it into the City limits.

But I agree wholeheartedly with Omar's sentiment, and his letter is important. Whatever style of growth we are going to embrace should have public endorsement. Too bad the Area Plan Update has gotten so little attention.


Fred Duckels 3 years, 3 months ago

We can't get to the point where everyone sees the chance to make a buck, then we get a growth spurt and the whole cycle repeats only with bigger problems.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 3 months ago


I think the Area Plan Update has gotten so little attention is because it appears to have nothing contentious in it.

"Put differently, we can send growth to the West or squeeze it into the City limits." I think it is incorrect to say it is one or the other. I think, in all likelihood, that it will be a combination of both as viable projects are proposed. The infill projects will be of higher density and be nice places to live connected to local bus service and so on, but there will still be a demand for single family housing on modest lots and thus a demand for some growth to go west.

SB, unlike many other resort cities, has a large number of lots available with 30 miles. It may not coincide with urban planners preferences on how to design a city, but it is a basic economic fact that SB workers will accept a 20-30 mile commute for lower housing costs. Thus, any discussion of SB growth should be discussed in the context of the regional housing situation.


Steve Lewis 3 years, 3 months ago

Scott, the Update does ask my question, and you are right, there is a middle approach between the 2 extremes of emphasizing growth out West or emphasizing Infill. Here is the City page with a link to each of the 3 Alternatives.

I haven't a strong preference. But like Omar, I would like to see my community's preference being followed. If we have a community requesting dense infill, great. If we have a community requesting Western growth, great. Same for the middle option. But until we see that community preference made clear, Up-zoning our existing densities and building heights is uncalled for - existing owners bought into a given character and they should have a voice in changing that character.

The Update can guide both public and private investment. (Sorry Danny M. found that to be untrue with his unfortunate timing.) We'll need adequate infrastructure where we plan to grow. Re: the regional thing, I agree people will drive to suit their needs. You and I had that argument years ago. You win.


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