Forum on growth brings different groups together | SteamboatToday.com

Forum on growth brings different groups together

Avi Salzman

— If Monday night’s growth forum was any indication, revising the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan will likely be a very inclusive process drawing on the ideas of a very involved local populace.

The forum, sponsored by the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley, the city, the county and the Steamboat chamber, attracted people from all walks of life to listen and learn from speaker Michael Kinsley and then to offer some possible solutions of their own. The diversity of the sponsors and the approximately 120 attendees impressed Kinsley.

“That’s very unusual that that broad a cross-section of the community got together and is talking about it,” Kinsley said. Kinsley is the senior researcher for the Rocky Mountain Institute and a former Pitkin County Commissioner.

The meeting was the first of three to discuss issues relative to the joint city-county area plan.

Kinsley began the discussion by asking the audience members what professions they represented, finding that the crowd’s job experiences ran the gamut of public and private sector employment.

Then he playfully touched some raw nerves.

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“Who here is a knee-jerk environmentalist? How about right-wing property-rights fanatics?” he asked.

Kinsley pushed the audience to get beyond the stereotypes that can drive discussions on local issues and engage with each other as the community moves forward in defining its future.

Growth its definition and all its implications drove discussion for two hours as Kinsley presented solutions other communities have used to achieve a “sustainable” local economy in the face of population pressures and economic fluctuations.

Examples included a small town in Utah that began bottling its own water after realizing outside competitors were making money in their city by selling a product they could provide just as easily. Kinsley also brought up the experience of Littleton, which was able to encourage local investment and local entrepreneurship through an “economic gardening” program.

His message focused on the idea that a community does not need to grow to survive if it is creative in how it promotes its local economy and considers its environment in the decision-making process.

“There are many ways in which communities are creating jobs, income and savings without getting larger,” he said.

Kinsley’s perspective was not necessarily acceptable to everyone in the audience, but the dialogue that ensued from discussions of affordable housing and growth control impressed and inspired the crowd.

“When I walked in, I was impressed with the number of people. I was also impressed with the diversity of the group,” said Tony Seaver, a five-year Steamboat resident.

Seaver said he was interested in discussing issues of economic diversity further in depth as the area plan is debated.

Andy Wirth, the vice president of marketing for the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., said he felt the meeting did well to bring groups sometimes on opposite sides of issues together.

Others agreed.

“It was wonderful interacting with all the different factions in the community,” said Barbara Siek. “I hope it continues.”