Tim Rowse: Community voices need to be heard
December 23, 2016
I have been taking part in the community housing steering committee's project to find solutions to attainable housing in Steamboat. I feel it's time to give some community perspective to this discussion.
First, the makeup of the steering committee and the sub-committees are overwhelmingly pro-growth. That's not good or bad, just an observation to consider. The overriding belief I heard was that supply solves all our problems. Supply, of course, needs to be tempered with our infrastructure and cultural capacities.
Second, the housing effort is running a risk of future derailment by the voter if they don't stop and ask the community how and where it would like to grow. I don't believe in a "no-growth" policy as I believe a "no-growth" philosophy leads to a homogenized society of the wealthy with the support community living "down valley.”
I believe Steamboat's cross-section of cultures and economic status are a big part of what makes our community so great. However, if we don't understand what the community wants and act on that, we run the risk of political illegitimacy and voter unwillingness to move forward.
Third, the recent suggestion of expanding the urban growth boundary is unnecessary to achieve attainable housing. There are basically three current options as to where and how Steamboat can grow. They are infill within city limits, West Steamboat and implementing the Routt County master plan for Stagecoach.
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I believe we need to implement two of these options as any two will satisfy demand for decades to come. The first option I would choose is infill, as this option will happen in one form or another no matter what we do.
The other option is the communities choice between West Steamboat and Stagecoach. Both have advantages and disadvantages — I won't get into now but that could be addressed in an extensive effort for community input.
The last option is to do nothing which is a choice that I believe leads to a weaker community.
So, how do we move forward on this delicate issue? In my view, the next step in the process is to get extensive feedback from community members on what they want. One way to do this is an extensive community survey on attitudes toward how and where to grow.
This needs to be done in an unbiased way that proactively engages the community. A survey of this kind is one of the suggestions of the steering committee to local government.
I urge the county commissioners and city council to act on this. And, please don't hire some consulting firm to run this for us …l et's make it a community effort.
A concurrent step is for a local organization, most likely the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, to take lead on a collaborative discussion and creation of a workable, go-forward plan that includes city and county collaboration, private sector input and, most importantly, community input.
To address our need for housing and set guidelines for growth will take a focused effort. It makes little sense for the city and county to work separately on this issue.
What if city and county resources were collaboratively focused on specific areas of growth the community agrees on? City, county and community could take a very precise approach to managing our growth with proper community, government and private sector leadership.
I urge community members who care about this issue to get informed and make their voice heard.