Our View: Lessons from the road
November 17, 2010
At this point, the Gloria Gossard Parkway in western Steamboat Springs is a road to nowhere.
There is a bright side — at least it's not a bridge.
In seriousness, it's unfortunate the way the chips have fallen in the Gloria Gossard Parkway/Overlook Park plan. The $1.3 million road was meant to be built through a partnership among Overlook Park subdivision developers, the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County. It was intended to serve as a link to new growth areas in western Steamboat and beyond. Now, there's a road that leads to a proposed subdivision that is in foreclosure.
It's clear many of these decisions came at a different time in the economy and real estate market. Still, there's a lesson to be learned going forward: Local municipalities ought to be careful about passing control of infrastructure to developers, particularly when the developers don't yet have a development permit.
Jay Weinberg was the developer on the property. He was eager to build the road after having started the city approval process in 2004 and being told city planning staff would not process it until the parkway was part of the application. When road construction started last year, Weinberg was expecting to get the development permit and move ahead.
The city, the county and Overlook Park developers reached their cost-sharing agreement for the road in November 2008. By the time the road went forward in 2009, the real estate world had changed in Routt County, and the city asked the developers to hold off on construction until the fate of the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation was known. Overlook Park Co. representatives offered requirements for the delay while noting their desire to move forward. Because of the terms of the cost-sharing agreement, the Steamboat Springs City Council felt that its hands were tied.
The city had agreed to pay for $700,000 of the construction of the $1.3 million first phase, and the county had agreed to cover $500,000.
"In order to put our foot down, we felt we would have had to withhold funds, which probably would have resulted in a lawsuit," Councilman Jon Quinn said.
The road went forward and was built from 2009 to 2010. Overlook Park is in foreclosure proceedings, and development of the land seems years away.
The parkway does offer one advantage, Public Works Director Philo Shelton noted. The city was able to complete a water line loop to West Acres Mobile Home Park, providing redundancy that previously didn't exist to the system.
The city, county and developers wanted this to turn out differently. The cost-sharing agreement probably should have been written differently, and the City Council perhaps shouldn't have been in such a hurry to spur development in western Steamboat. But it's also important to remember that someday development might come to that part of town, and this road eventually could provide access to residences. If that does happen, we might be glad the community was able to build it for $1.3 million.