Council candidates address concerns about Steamboat 700 at forum | SteamboatToday.com

Council candidates address concerns about Steamboat 700 at forum

Brandon Gee

Residents attend Friday's candidates forum at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

— The proposed Steamboat 700 annexation – to differing degrees – split the candidates in all three contested races for the Steamboat Springs City Council at a Friday election forum.

Former Councilman Jim Engelken, a candidate for council’s two-year at-large seat, said he opposes the development as proposed because he doesn’t think that it will create the affordable housing envisioned by the original West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, and he thinks that it lacks other public benefits.

“As currently proposed, I do not support the deal that’s being offered,” said Engelken, who said the huge density boosts that accompany annexation should be accompanied by huge public benefits.

Kyle Pietras, Engelken’s opponent in the at-large race, stopped short of endorsing the project but said it has the potential to solve city problems such as traffic and affordable housing.

“This is a partnership to help fix a lot of these problems,” Pietras said. “If all of these things are fulfilled by Steamboat 700, I think it could be great for this town.”

Steamboat 700 proposes 2,000 homes and 380,000 square feet of commercial space on 487 acres just west of city limits.

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On other topics, Engelken’s comfort and familiarity with city issues stood in contrast to Pietras’. Pietras, the owner of a small landscaping company, was stumped on two of the four questions asked by moderator and Steamboat Pilot & Today Editor Brent Boyer.

To answer a question about the city’s community support budget, Pietras first had to be told what it included. Community support spending is a relatively small but emotional and often publicized portion of the city budget that goes toward organizations dedicated to areas such as the arts, human services and the environment.

After an explanation by Boyer, Pietras said essential and core functions of city government deserved more attention.

“I think those programs should be at the bottom of the list,” Pietras said.

Engelken agreed that community support spending is “a lower-rung priority” but said it is nonetheless important. Engelken said he would like to see local nonprofit groups work together more to reduce redundant services and reduce their requests to the city for funding.

District 2

Ken Solomon, a candidate for the four-year District 2 seat, said he does not support Steamboat 700 as proposed. In addition to having affordable housing concerns, Solomon said he was uncomfortable with the lack of attention being paid to the 13th Street bottleneck.

Although improvements to U.S. Highway 40 in western Steamboat would accompany the annexation, bottleneck fixes are not specifically identified or required of Steamboat 700.

“I can’t imagine what it would look like on a powder morning,” Solomon said about the intersection at the entrance to downtown.

Kenny Reisman, Solomon’s opponent, also stopped short of an outright endorsement of the project but said the council’s initial approval of the annexation Tuesday – in a 4-3 vote – was the correct decision. He also said it was correct for the council to ask Steamboat 700 developers to make a number of changes to their proposal.

“We need as much as we can get in writing,” Reisman said. “I don’t believe in reactive growth. We need to have a plan in place.”

District 1

The candidates for a four-year District 1 seat – Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski and former City Council President Kevin Bennett – oppose Steamboat 700 in its current form, but for different reasons.

Bennett shares Engelken’s concerns about the development’s affordable housing plan and also opposes allowing Steamboat 700 to make a payment in lieu of conveying water rights to the city.

Hermacinski doesn’t have a problem with either of those issues but said she was skeptical that free-market homes in Steamboat 700 would be attainable for middle-class, local residents because of the high cost of public improvements required in the annexation agreement.

Councilman Walter Magill is running unopposed in the District 3 race. He said he was proud of the current council’s work to reduce the city budget and would like to work to create a teen center, add a second sheet of ice to the Howelsen Ice Arena and improve the quality of public restrooms at city parks.

The Pilot & Today, Steamboat TV18, the Routt County Republican Party, the Routt County Democratic Party and the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors sponsored Friday’s forum. It was taped and will be rebroadcast on Steamboat TV18, Comcast Channel 18, throughout the election cycle. The days and times of the rebroadcast schedule will be announced.

Candidates

– District 1 (four years): Cari Hermacinski (at-large incumbent, council president pro tem), Kevin Bennett (former council president)

– District 2 (four years): Kenny Reisman, Ken Solomon

– District 3 (four years): Walter Magill (District 3 incumbent)

– At-large (two years): Jim Engelken (former councilman), Kyle Pietras

– Not up for election: Scott Myller (District 1), Meg Bentley (District 2), Jon Quinn (District 3)

– Leaving council: Loui Antonucci (District 2, council president, term-limited), Steve Ivancie (District 1, term-limited)

Don’t forget

Monday is the last day to register to vote or update your address with the Routt County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. Log on to our election site to download registration forms and to verify your voter status. Voters also can call the Routt County Clerk and Recorder’s Office at 870-5556 or stop by the Routt County Courthouse.