Decision time for Steamboat 700 | SteamboatToday.com

Decision time for Steamboat 700

City Council to give final consideration to Steamboat 700 annexation

Brandon Gee

— What some have billed as the most important issue to ever face the city of Steamboat Springs goes before City Council today for final consideration.

Steamboat Springs City Manager Jon Roberts called the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation “the big gorilla,” and outgoing council veteran Steve Ivancie described it as “probably one of the biggest things I’ve ever been associated with.” The proposal includes about 2,000 homes and about 380,000 square feet of commercial space on 487 acres adjacent to U.S. Highway 40 just west of city limits.

Supporters say the project helps the city pay for several sorely needed improvements and accomplish community goals such as the provision of affordable housing. Critics say the development’s impacts on traffic and city services are too great and its commitments are too weak.

Should council approve the annexation, as it did in a preliminary 4-3 vote two weeks ago, it is not necessarily a done deal. City residents still would have the right to collect enough signatures to trigger the city’s referendum process, which would force council to repeal the annexation ordinance or put it to a citywide vote. City Attorney Tony Lettunich will explain referendum procedures at today’s meeting.

There’s also the possibility that City Council will table its consideration of the annexation, but City Council President Loui Antonucci said he expects a vote.

“Where that will go, I have no idea,” Antonucci said, “but I think we can get to it.”

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Antonucci and other council members interviewed Monday would not say how they plan to vote on the annexation, but their comments suggest another close decision.

In an e-mail to supporters Monday, Steamboat 700 Principal and Project Manager Danny Mulcahy continued to stress his argument that the development accomplishes community goals spelled out in the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan.

“I have been coming to Steamboat Springs for nearly 29 years to ski. Four years ago this month : I was in Steamboat Springs and learned about the opportunity in (western) Steamboat Springs,” Mulcahy wrote. “We have worked hard to create a plan that fulfills the community’s vision.”

Steamboat 700’s application has been amended since the meeting two weeks ago to address council members’ concerns.

Provisions have been added to the annexation agreement to strengthen the development’s commitment to employ sustainable practices and limit its ability to impose “public improvement fees” on sales within its boundaries.

The most substantial revisions, however, concern housing. Steamboat 700’s community housing plan has been revised to include a 15-acre land dedication to the city, up from 12.5 acres. In tandem with the proceeds of a 0.5 percent real estate transfer tax within the development, the city will use the land to develop affordable, deed-restricted housing aimed at making the 20 percent of the development permanently affordable to residents earning an average of 80 percent of the area median income.

Some council members also were concerned about whether the remaining housing in the development would be attainable for local residents, given all the infrastructure costs required in the annexation agreement. In response, a paragraph has been added to the annexation agreement stating that 30 percent of the homes in Steamboat 700, not including the subsidized units, shall be marketed at an “attainable price” for a period of at least 120 days before being released to the free market. During that time period, the homes could be priced for and sold to residents earning only 120 to 200 percent of the AMI, with an average of 150 to 160 percent AMI.

In a letter to council members, Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley President Jack White wrote that Steamboat 700’s efforts fall short.

The Community Alliance thinks there should be no time limit on the attainable prices and that the target AMI is too high.

“Sadly, even if all these flaws were addressed, the proposed solution with its lower prices still pits our work force against the financial and qualifying abilities of wealthier outsiders,” the letter states.

The Community Alliance is pushing for 30 percent of Steamboat 700’s homes to carry deed restrictions that require them to be sold to Routt County workers.

Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski, who voted against Steamboat 700 two weeks ago because of concerns about housing costs, said she likes the developer’s proposal because it does not rely on any new complex regulations that would have to be enforced by the city. However, Hermacinski said she still would rather see a business plan proving Steamboat 700 intends to build homes for Steamboat’s working class.

“I don’t believe what’s in the materials resolves my concerns about attainability,” she said. “I would like to see this project be attainable from a free-market perspective without controls on it.”

Councilman Scott Myller, who voted in favor of the project two weeks ago, said Hermacinski’s concerns are valid but that attainability may be “difficult, if not impossible” to prove. He said he would likely still support the project even if it cannot guarantee the attainability of free-market housing.

Antonucci also voted in favor of the project two weeks ago, despite echoing Hermacinski’s concerns and voicing others, as well.

“They’re going in the right direction, so I’m encouraged by that,” he said. “I think they’ve complied with everything I’ve personally asked them to comply with.”

Among council members, Jon Quinn has argued most strongly in favor of Steamboat 700. He said Monday that he would hate to see another 4-3 vote and prefers that all council members get their concerns addressed so they can support the project.

“I think it’s hugely important that we get everybody’s feelings on the table,” Quinn said. “I think it’s really important for us to see this through.”

As he did two weeks ago – when he made a failed motion to table the annexation and later voted against it – Ivancie said there are still unresolved issues such as an incomplete water and wastewater study.

“That’s one of my concerns. I want to see that master plan,” Ivancie said. “We’re kind of flying blind” without it.

Council members Meg Bentley and Walter Magill did not return phone messages Monday.

– To reach Brandon Gee, call 367-7507 or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

If you go

What: Steamboat Springs City Council meeting

When: 5 p.m. today

Where: Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.

Call: City offices at 879-2060 for more information; call 871-7070 to listen live to meetings of the Steamboat Springs City Council