Steamboat 700 vote seems certain |

Steamboat 700 vote seems certain

Election timeline, collaboration with county to be decided

Mike Lawrence

— A public vote on the Steamboat 700 annexation appears certain, but details of the election remain up in the air.

On Dec. 15, the Steamboat Springs City Council is scheduled to decide whether to repeal the annexation's approval or put it to a public vote.

A repeal of approval is unlikely. Council members Walter Magill, Scott Myller and Jon Quinn voted in favor of the annexation when the City Council approved it in a 4-3 vote Oct. 13.

Council member Meg Bentley voted against the approval but suggested a motion to put it to a public vote.

Cari Hermacinski, now City Council president, also voted against the annexation but has since expressed support for a vote.

"If the community goes through the hard work of getting enough signatures, I absolutely think City Council should put it on the ballot," Hermacinski said in October.

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New council member Kenny Reisman, elected after the approval vote, said Thursday that his choice will be clear Dec. 15.

"Definitely putting it toward a public vote — I'm a big believer in the process of government," Reisman said. "We have a process in place, citizens have acted on that process and we need to see that process played out to fruition."

New council member Jim Engelken said during his campaign in the fall that Steamboat 700 has too many unanswered questions and is not a good deal for the community. On Thursday, he said he would not oppose the majority of council in putting the annexation to a vote.

"I think it's likely council will send it to a public vote," he said. "I think that's probably a fine idea. This is a big enough idea that it belongs to the voters."

Steamboat 700 proposes about 2,000 homes and 380,000 square feet of commercial space just west of the current city limits. Some say the annexation would give the city a smart place to grow, provide affordable housing and help pay for needed city improvements. Others say the annexation is too large, is happening too fast and does not adequately address impacts to the city's water supplies, traffic and more.

The council's Dec. 15 decision is the result of a successful petition effort by the Let's Vote committee, which chairwoman Cindy Constantine said submitted a total of 1,565 signatures supporting a public vote to the office of City Clerk Julie Franklin on Nov. 12. The city's home rule charter requires 829 signatures for a successful petition, representing 10 percent of Steamboat Springs registered voters in the last regular municipal election.

City attorney Tony Lettunich said about 930 signatures were approved and that more than 230 were rejected in the verification process. "Several hundred" signatures were not reviewed at all, he said, and are held in case of a challenge to the petition.

Steamboat 700 principal and project manager Danny Mulcahy said Thursday that his team is reviewing the petition, but he declined to comment further.

Franklin is scheduled to present a certificate of the petition's sufficiency to City Council on Dec. 1. A public vote on Steamboat 700 would be a mail-only election. Steamboat 700 would pay for the election, as is stipulated in its annexation agreement.

Vote in the 'Boat

Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland said this week that while she hasn't had any official discussions with city staff about county election assistance, the idea has been raised, and the county "may contract with (the city) to do the tally portion for them."

Weinland said the county also could help the city find a vendor to print and mail ballots, but outside of that, it's the city's election.

"It's a matter of resources," Weinland said. "If my staff is working on elections for the city, they're not doing other things they need to be doing in my office."

Weinland said if the city contracts with her office, which just conducted Routt County's first mail-only election, the two entities would sign an intergovernmental agreement, and the city election would then be conducted under Title I, the state statute regulating state and county elections.

Rich Coolidge, spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, said municipalities have two options for conducting a special election.

"They can either follow Title I's mail ballot plan … or they can go on their own," he said.

Under Title I, Coolidge said, the city would have to file a mail ballot plan with the state 55 days before the election, describing the election's procedures and timetable. Coolidge said the timetable is according to the municipality's charter, which in Steamboat Springs stipulates the election must occur between 30 and 90 days after a council decision for a vote.

Following that timeline, a public vote on the Steamboat 700 annexation could occur in late January through early March.

Coolidge said under Title I, the city would have to mail ballots to voters between 22 and 18 days before the election, meaning voters would have about three weeks to return their ballots.

Council gives extension

City Council granted an extension Tuesday night to 360 Village, another potential annexation in the city’s planning pipeline. The Wilton West group is proposing residential and commercial development on a 110-acre site west of the Steamboat II and Silver Spur subdivisions. City Council approved the pre-annexation agreement for 360 Village on Aug. 18 and voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the deadline for its petition for annexation to April 1, 2010, or 30 days after a referendum vote on Steamboat 700, whichever comes first.

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