Developers don’t think Steamboat residents need to have final say on west Steamboat annexation at ballot box
July 19, 2017
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct a quote that was incorrectly attributed to Rich Levy.
The real estate developers who want to build new neighborhoods and have them annexed into west Steamboat Springs said Tuesday they don't think their annexation proposal needs to go to city voters for a final decision.
"I'm not feeling it in terms of the need for a community vote on this," Brynn Grey Partners CEO David O'Neil said at the end of a lengthy work session with the Steamboat Springs City Council, during which both sides continued to go back and forth over the costs of the proposed development.
O'Neil said he had heard from other groups who are pursuing ballot questions who feared the question of whether to annex up to 450 new homes in the city might complicate their proposals to voters.
He also pointed to the fact that the city’s codes spell out a procedure for annexations without a public vote.
It will ultimately be up to the City Council to decide first whether to move forward with an annexation, then, whether the proposal should go to voters for approval.
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If the council doesn’t send the proposal to voters, the public would have the opportunity to initiate a referendum, itself, if enough residents felt such a vote was necessary and agreed to sign a petition to that effect.
Brynn Grey's proposal remains in the deliberation phase as council members try to decide whether to potentially grant the developers millions of dollars worth of concessions in exchange for new housing and a benefit that includes a potential real estate transfer fee on the sale of Brynn Grey’s homes that would support affordable housing.
But council members and the developers still have not agreed on some big topics, including how much the developers should pitch in for transportation costs if the annexation advances.
Councilman Jason Lacy has said the city and the developers were initially several million dollars apart on what each side thought the contribution should be.
To try and aid negotiations, the council has requested a traffic study to better guide the potential costs.
The council is also narrowly in favor of allowing the developers to pay into a water firming fund over time, instead of providing some of the water funding up front.
When it comes to whether any potential annexation agreement should have to be approved by voters, council members have offered differing views on the question in recent months.
Some members have said they think they've been elected to make the decision, while others have suggested the decision, and its financial implications on taxpayers, is too big for only seven council members to decide.
Councilwoman Lisel Petis said Tuesday she had heard from some community members who questioned why Brynn Grey's proposal would have to go to the ballot.
But Councilwoman Heather Sloop appeared to take a different view when she said the council and developers would be "tying the hands of taxpayers" if they didn't ask voters to also approve any annexation.
When Brynn Grey first arrived in Steamboat last year to look into the idea of developing new neighborhoods, the leaders of the company floated the idea of proactively going to voters with the proposal.
But, saying they had heard mostly positive feedback about the proposal, the company deferred to the council to decide.
Steamboat resident Bill Jameson was critical of the view of not taking the proposal to the public.
"You're not even addressing the operating costs this annexation is going to bring, and you're going to think you're not going to bring this to a vote of the people?" Jameson asked.
Jameson predicted that, if the council doesn’t put the idea of an annexation to a public vote, it will likely be met with a referendum from community members forcing a ballot question.
What do you think?
Should voters get to weigh in on a potential annexation agreement? Leave a comment below.