Election 2017: Q & A with Peter Arnold, Steamboat Springs City Council candidate, at-large (2-year term)
October 14, 2017
Do you think the city's codes regulating downtown development need to be changed in the wake of a lawsuit that stopped the 1125 Lincoln Avenue project? Please explain.
No, the codes are there to preserve the character of Main Street. Until a compelling case is made to deviate from our current regulations, I will follow the code as it is written while serving on city council. The 1125 Lincoln Avenue project was perhaps seen as a blight on the landscape based on its architectural renderings and impact to surrounding property owners. When one looks at the three big projects that were given some variances in the recent past, Alpen Glow, Howelsen Place and The Victorian, their setbacks appeared adequate, their height variances were not terribly excessive and their overall architectural appearance seemed to blend well with our existing historic structures. The recent opposition to the 1125 project within the community however was great enough to compel a lawsuit.
Airbnb, VRBO and other vacation rental companies are seeing increased usage in resort communities. Do you think the city should do anything to curb the potential growth of this type of short-term housing? Why or why not?
Yes. The new avenues, which allow property owners to exploit the rental market, have had a negative effect on our community. Not only has it removed a supply of formerly long-term rental properties and placed them in the nightly market, it has taken away business from commercial operators in this town who rely on those tourism dollars. If I were a hotel operator in this community or any other tourism-dependent area, I would be upset with the attitude community leaders seem to have regarding the result of allowing commercial operations to be conducted in residential areas. Residents of Steamboat Springs deserve to enjoy their community and neighborhoods without the nuisance and uncertainty nightly rentals bring.
How are you feeling about Brynn Grey's annexation proposal? What are the next steps, in your opinion, for the city and for the developer?
I am frustrated with the current state of the Brynn Grey conversation. With the inevitable crossing of lines between revenue and expenses that Steamboat Springs will soon face, we all must take a hard look at what any proposal might look like and the long-term obligations it places on the taxpayers. I was pleased with the manner in which city council members recently taxed Brynn Grey’s principal David O’Neill to come back with a proposal. I asked David myself why they don’t make the entire project free of nightly rentals and promote this development as a truly community-oriented project. He hesitated in committing to such a condition on the market rate units they intend to build but I applaud the efforts of both council and David to keep working toward an economically viable solution.
Do you think the city and the council are as transparent as they can be? If not, what ideas do you have to make the government more open and accessible?
Yes and no. Yes, because I believe any citizen who cares enough to seek the information they desire can access it. I can attest to the fact that all city employees and council members I have reached out to in my quest to serve has been met with courtesy and a smile. In regards to the last few years of internal change as a result of the SSPD investigation and its $100,000 report we never saw I say “no,” they have not been as transparent as they could have been.
Is child care/preschool programming a service the city government should be providing?
This question is somewhat of a double-edged sword so to answer yes or no has its negative connotations. This community has a demonstrated need for more access to programming for youngsters. I believe some members of this current council feel compelled to act on this need for more child care and youth programming, and if we as a city are in a position to facilitate those needs, then the answer is yes. If a council member or a citizen does not feel this is an essential core service and it should not be discussed then I ask the following question. Why are we in the business of making any kind of annexation deal happen if we don’t have the revenue to sustain that effort if and when the next recession might come around?
The city has been grappling with how to come up with a vision for Howelsen Hill and how to make the hill more financially sustainable. Do you think this can be accomplished? What should the city's commitment to Howelsen Hill be in the future?
There are no certainties in this world other than death and taxes. Yes, I believe Howelsen can be made more financially sustainable than how it is currently. I have faith in the council members having the discussions regarding this effort. The city’s commitment will be what the electorate tells them it is. To disregard the institution that the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club is, the history Steamboat Springs has with Howelsen Hill, or the legacy both have in producing winter olympians would be short-sighted. When all stakeholders in this current conversation come to the table we will find a solution. If not, people with the political will to make it happen will come to the discussion. Nothing worth accomplishing has ever been easy.
What are the top three challenges facing the city in 2018?
The number one challenge facing the city in 2018 will be convincing the community to approve a property tax. Without a sustainable revenue source, growth to the west will be difficult, budget cuts will be painful to non-essential services, and should another recession ensue, city staff will likely be reduced once again and in turn services will suffer. Scott Ford’s three-part series in the Valley Voice spelled this out very eloquently. One solution would be to create a parks and rec district with its own source of funding thereby freeing up more of the sales tax revenue. As growth continues though, this source of additional revenue will be temporary. The city’s number two and three challenges are solving the housing shortage and traffic congestion that seem to be negatively affecting the quality of life in the community.
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Open-ended question: Why are you running for election to the city council?
I chose to run for city council to serve the community of Steamboat Springs. I first moved into the valley in July of 2002. As I drove down Rabbit Ears Pass, I knew I was home. I began a new life here after leaving the Midwest and started by working for my brother in construction. I met my future wife in 2004 working at Mazzola’s where I was a delivery driver in the evening for extra money and free pizza. We are now raising a 2-year-old daughter here. I’ve seen this town change dramatically in just the few short years I have lived here but not as much as my opponent has or many of the people I am appealing to for votes. What I have seen happen most recently motivated me to step up and attempt to make a difference. I volunteer my time serving on the Board of Adjustments and have already participated in City 101 for 2017. The learning curve is steep in this effort but I feel confident, either in victory or defeat, I will continue to seek information and be a part of the positive change in the future.