People pack Olympian Hall at Howelsen Lodge for Thursday night's Steamboat 700 annexation forum.

Photo by Matt Stensland

People pack Olympian Hall at Howelsen Lodge for Thursday night's Steamboat 700 annexation forum.

Steamboat 700 forum focuses on housing, growth impacts, traffic, water

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Steamboat 700 opponent Tim Rowse answers a question during Thursday night's forum at Olympian Hall.

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Steamboat 700 annexation supporter David Baldinger Jr. answers a question during Thursday night's forum at Olympian Hall.

Online

■ Learn more about the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation at www.steamboatpilot.com/news/steamboat700/.

■ Learn more about the Let’s Vote issue committee, opposing the Steamboat 700 annexation, on the Web at https://letsvoteno.com.

■ Learn more about the Good for Steamboat committee, supporting the Steamboat 700 annexation, on the Web at www.good4steamboat.com.

Vote on 700

■ Ballots for the mail-only election have reached, or are on the way this week, to registered Steamboat Springs voters. The only drop-off location for ballots is City Hall at 137 10th St. The election ends March 9.

■ Steamboat 700 is a proposed master-planned community on 487 acres adjacent to the western city limits of Steamboat Springs. The project proposes about 2,000 homes — from apartments to single-family home lots — and 380,000 square feet of commercial development that would be built to the standards of new urbanism (dense, walkable and transit-friendly).

— The battle lines about Steam­boat 700 sharpened at a Thursday night forum, as opponents said the proposed annexation inadequately addresses affordable housing needs and infrastructure costs and has inherent financial risks, while supporters said city staff and elected officials have negotiated a phased, long-term plan that provides solutions, funding and land for growth.

Community members filled Olympian Hall at Howelsen Lodge for the event, which featured responses to audience questions by panels representing the Let’s Vote committee, opposing the annexation, and the Good For Steamboat committee in support. Representing Let’s Vote were committee spokesman Tim Rowse, Realtor Bill Moser, affordable housing advocate John Spezia and longtime builder Ken Solomon. Representing Good For Steam­boat were Steamboat 700 attorney Bob Weiss, Steamboat Vill­age Brokers principal David Baldinger Jr., investment adviser Chris Puckett and businesswoman Kathy Stokes.

Much of the debate focused on the creation of affordable housing, a key component of the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan that details how development should occur on the land designated for Steamboat 700.

Steamboat 700’s annexation agreement with the city requires developers to give the city 15 acres for affordable housing and place a real estate transfer fee, of 1.2 percent of the total sale price, on all sales within the annexation. Of that 1.2 percent, 0.5 percent would go toward a city affordable housing fund. The city could build 400 affordable homes on those acres. A draft attainability program requires 30 percent of about 480 additional homes to be marketed for one year to buyers or households earning 120 percent to 200 percent of the area median income.

“Both sides of the table adamantly support affordable housing,” Baldinger said, referring to the city and developers. Baldinger noted that the Yampa Valley Housing Authority supports the annexation and said land costs are the largest hurdle to affordability.

Moser countered that 400 homes on 15 acres would be too dense for family homes “with a picket fence,” and Spezia added that transfer fee revenues would need to accumulate “for 20 to 30 years” to fund construction of affordable housing.

“And most of you can’t afford to wait that long,” Spezia said to the audience.

Steamboat 700 proposes about 2,000 homes and 380,000 square feet of commercial space, over a 20- to 30-year time frame for development, on a 487-acre site just west of current city limits.

Steamboat 700’s payment for water costs also was a source of debate. Developers would be required to pay for all water and wastewater infrastructure within the annexation, and tap fees paid by homeowners would pay for infrastructure expansion outside of it, according to the agreement. Steamboat 700 also would pay the city $960,000 to improve the city’s existing water rights on the Elk River.

Let’s Vote panel members said the city should have required a much higher payment for water, a high-demand resource on the Western Slope.

“I think they left a lot of money on the table, and I think it’s going to cost us money in the future,” Moser said.

That caused Weiss to accuse Let’s Vote of “schizophrenia” in its arguments, which he said at the same time demanded affordability for homeowners and higher costs for developers.

“On the one hand they’re saying you’re not being tough enough on the developer, on the other hand everything costs too much so it won’t work,” Weiss said.

Loui Antonucci, who was president of the Steamboat Springs City Council that approved the annexation agreement in October, said the council considered affordability for future Steamboat 700 homeowners when approving the $960,000 figure.

“If the water in Steamboat was as expensive as it is in the Vail Valley, then west of Steamboat probably would not be an affordable neighborhood or an attainable neighborhood,” Antonucci said. “We can certainly charge (Steamboat 700) more money, and all that would do is make the development out there more expensive.”

In response to a question about alternatives for managing growth if Steamboat 700 fails, Spezia promoted growth within current city limits, where infrastructure already exists and there’s better access to mass transit.

“Infill, increased density and redevelopment — that’s where our resources are,” he said.

Baldinger said land costs and market values show that time has passed.

“The notion that we can infill … to provide meaningful affordable housing is impossible,” he said. “We’ve missed that opportunity.”

Rowse said the economy, real estate market and job market all point to risks and uncertainty with an annexation the size of Steamboat 700.

“Are we really going to ignore the lessons of this recession?” he said.

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