Our View: Time to end silence after 700 vote
April 11, 2010
It's now been more than a month since Steamboat Springs voters resoundingly overturned the City Council's annexation agreement with Steamboat 700 developers, yet there's hardly been a peep about it in council chambers. It's time our elected officials reached out to the community for honest, detailed feedback about what led to the defeat. Those answers are necessary for Steamboat to prepare for future growth and development.
Perhaps the lack of public discussion about Steamboat 700 from Centennial Hall is the result of issue fatigue — after more than two years of planning and negotiating, city staff and officials might be taking a timeout in the immediate aftermath of the March 9 election. Or maybe they still are stunned. Regardless, the silence must end.
Council President Cari Hermacinski said the board is looking ahead to its April 20 joint meeting with the Routt County Board of Commissioners as an opportunity to discuss growth and development. Headlining that discussion likely will be the county's recently proposed transfer of development rights regulations, which, if approved as written, would allow for 5-acre home sites just outside the urban growth boundary.
Maybe April 20 is the start of an honest look into the reasons our community said "no" to Steamboat 700. The TDR discussion certainly plays into the same larger issue of growth.
But we fear that a discussion among many of the same elected officials who publicly endorsed Steamboat 700 won't provide the answers our community — and those same officials — need.
An additional and more appropriate step would be a comprehensive survey of all residents to help our elected officials understand why their agreement failed. Make the survey available online, and mail it to those who request a hard copy. Aim for a response rate similar to voter turnout last month. Hire a professional firm to write and administer the survey and compile and analyze the results. And do it soon because there's particular value in engaging residents while the issue is fresh in their minds and before the passage of time and changing economic and other circumstances alter the reasons we remember for why we said "yes" or "no" at the polls.
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We know Steamboat residents are tired of taxpayer-funded consultants and studies, but this is one we think has real merit. We also understand that the largest chunk of land within the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan still is owned by one entity, and there's only so much control the city has over what that entity eventually proposes for development. After all the effort that went into the WSSAP and the annexation agreement, a clear voice from the people will help this developer and future ones understand the type of growth and development Steamboat Springs is willing to stand behind and approve. Such a voice is needed to break the current silence.